U.S. Wind Energy 2010 Summary

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Wind turbines in Indiana

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently sent out a news release regarding the industry’s 2010 successes and challenges. Of course, no lasting progress was made on a comprehensive national strategy to promote clean energy, but even despite this, wind energy made several significant advances in 2010 and continues to grow in popularity and use.

“Wind power supply chain manufacturers continued to announce new U.S. plants despite an uncertain economic climate,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “The industry reached over 50 percent domestic content for turbines installed in the U.S. In addition, advances were made in regional transmission plans, the market for smaller turbines grew 15%, and offshore wind took major steps on the path to the first U.S. installations.”

Here are some more notable achievements:

  • The critical Section 1603 Investment Tax Credit for renewable energy was extended at the end of the year, as noted in my Top 10 Clean Tech Stories of 2010 post. This policy “is projected to increase wind project installations by roughly 50 percent each year,” Bode noted.
  • Utility-scale wind energy supplied Iowa with 20% of its electricity in 2010, up from 14% in 2009 (AWEA’s goal is to have 20% of the nation’s electricity coming from wind energy by 2030).
  • Over 400 U.S. manufacturing plants now serve the wind industry, with plants located and creating jobs in every region of the country.
  • Thanks in great measure to state Renewable Electricity Standards, “14 states have installed over 1,000 MW of wind, and a total of 37 states now have at least some utility-scale wind power installed within their borders.”In late October, due in part to strong winds, 25% of electrical generation in Texas came from wind energy.
  • Also noted in my 2010 top stories summary, the Obama administration approved Cape Wind, the first offshore wind farm in the nation, in April and the project received its ocean lease in October.
  • The Obama administration also announced, in November, that offshore wind projects would go through a more streamlined review process soon.
  • Google announced that it is investing in a massive offshore renewable electricity superhighway, “a project to build 350 miles of transmission off the Atlantic coast from New Jersey to Virginia to tap into gigantic off-shore wind potential.”
  • Americans want more wind energy: “A Harris poll in October 2010 found 87 percent of Americans want more wind energy, bearing out results in April 2010 from a bipartisan team of pollsters who found 89 percent support for more wind energy, including 84 percent of Republicans. And every time a referendum has been held on renewable energy, voters resoundingly say they want more, not less.”
  • Demonstrating citizen demand for wind energy, “AWEA’s 2010 Small Wind Turbine Global Market Study found that despite an economic downturn, the U.S. market for small wind turbines-those with rated capacities of 100 kilowatts (kW) and less-grew 15% in 2009 with 20.3 Megawatts (MW) of new capacity and $82.4 million in sales. This growth equates to nearly 10,000 new units and pushes the total installed capacity in the U.S. to 100 MW.”
  • Wind energy can be bi-partisan. “President George W. Bush kicked off WINDPOWER 2010 in Dallas last May with a message of perseverance and determination, which rallied the crowd of over 20,000 to action and enthusiasm. The conference is now the largest energy show in the country and brought the ‘think tank’ of the industry together, along with political leaders and corporate decision makers. General Colin Powell (Ret.) gave an impressive speech to over 700 attendees at AWEA’s Fall Symposium in Phoenix last month, on ‘Diplomacy: Persuasion, Trust, and Values,’ elaborating on the symposium theme of building strong relationships.”

However, despite these successes, there is a strong anti-clean energy push in the U.S. due to the great political and media power of the rich fossil fuel industry (and our national democratic failures).

–>> Read more about wind energy challenges and how we compare to China and Europe on Page 2

Photo Credit: John Schanlaub

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Zachary Shahan

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