Top 10 Wind Energy Stories of 2011

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!


wind energy top 10 2011

As the leading organization of the U.S. solar energy industry has done, the folks most in the know when it comes to U.S. wind energy, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), have put together a great end-of-the-year wrap-up of the top 10 wind energy stories of 2011. Rather than try to 1-up them, which would be pretty darn hard to do, I’m reposting their wrap-up here:

WASHINGTON, DC, December 27, 2011– Wind power hits 20 percent overall in two states. It contributes a record 50 percent for a period of time in another. And the turbines that pump out all those electrons? Their cost has dropped 33 percent.

The wind power industry never sits still in any given year, and 2011 was no different, as it forged ahead with a slew of benchmarks, policy progress, and hard data that illustrate wind energy continuing its march forward as a mainstream, reliable and affordable energy source made in America.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has established a tradition of taking a look back in December at the events that shaped the year in wind power. Here’s a look at just some of the many happenings that made 2011 yet another big year in the continued evolution of the industry.

1 – Iowa, South Dakota reach 20 percent wind penetration overall. U.S. wind industry observers no longer need look to Europe for examples of huge wind power penetrations. Both Iowa and South Dakota reached the important milestone of 20 percent of their electricity coming from wind power, a first for the U.S.  And more projects are coming.

2 – Xcel Energy shatters wind barrier with 50 percent at one time. While Iowa and South Dakota lead the nation with their 20 percent wind penetration overall benchmark, a utility system in Colorado made some noise on the integration front as well. Investor-owned utility Xcel Energy set a wind power world record on the morning of October 6, when subsidiary Public Service Co. of Colorado got 55.6 percent of the electricity on its system at one time from wind power, as reported in the Denver Post. The leading utility for wind power on its wires, Xcel Energy is proving once again that large amounts of wind can be successfully integrated onto the grid.

3 – Cost drop: Wind power gets leaner and meaner. Wind turbine prices have dropped sharply in recent years, and a government report released in 2011 highlights that trend with some telling numbers. According to the latest edition of the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Wind Technologies Market Report,” turbine prices decreased by as much as 33 percent or more between late 2008 and 2010. As discussed in AWEA’s most recent industry Annual Report, more efficient U.S.-based manufacturing is saving on transportation, and technology improvements are making turbines better and more efficient.

4 – One-third renewables: California establishes landmark RES. In April, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation that ups the state’s renewable electricity standard from an already strong 20 percent to an historic 33 percent by 2020. The renewables standard includes near-term and incremental targets (20 percent by the end of 2013 and 25 percent by the end of 2016), an approach that the wind industry considers to be an important component of RES legislation because it allows the industry to begin ramping up and generating economic development immediately.

5 – Offshore streamlining and project progress. The U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior made several important announcements that moved offshore American wind power forward, including: the unveiling of a coordinated strategic plan to pursue the deployment of 10 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind capacity by 2020 and 54 GW by 2030, the creation of high-priority “Wind Energy Areas” off the coasts of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, the approval of Cape Wind project’s construction and operations plan and the commitment of $43 million over the next five years to help speed technical innovations, drive down costs, and reduce market barriers such as supply chain development, transmission and infrastructure.

6 – WindMade™ label announced. 2011 marked the launch of WindMade™, a new consumer label that will highlight companies getting a large portion of their electricity from wind power. Already 15 companies—including such names as Motorola Mobility, Deutsche Bank, and Bloomberg—have committed to attaining the new label by getting at least 25 percent of their electricity from wind energy.

7 – Momentum builds for PTC extension. The year is wrapping without the all-important extension of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), wind power’s primary policy driver, which expires at the end of 2012. But the PTC movement gathered momentum heading into next year, with bipartisan legislation recently introduced by Representatives Dave Reichert (R, WA-08) and Earl Blumenauer (D, OR-03) seeking to grant a four-year PTC extension (H.R. 3307, the “American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act”). This legislation has garnered the support of 36 cosponsors including 11 Republicans as well as a broad, nonpartisan coalition of over 370 members, including manufacturing, farm and business interests and the bipartisan Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition comprised of 23 Republican and Democrat Governors from across the U.S.

8 – Wind power keeps the lights on. When more than 50 power plants totaling 7,000 MW unexpectedly went offline in Texas due to unusually cold weather early in the year, wind power was there to help stabilize the system and keep the lights on. Wind energy played a critical role in limiting the severity of the blackouts, providing enough electricity to keep the power on for about three million typical households. ERCOT, the Texas grid operator, confirmed that wind energy was providing between 3,500 and 4,000 MW of electricity (about 7 percent of ERCOT demand at that time)—roughly what it was forecast and scheduled to provide—during the critical two-hour window when the grid needed power the most. Said ERCOT CEO Trip Doggett, as reported in the Texas Tribune: “I would highlight that we put out a special word of thanks to the wind community because they did contribute significantly through this timeframe.”

9- Southeast gets more clean, affordable wind power. Two new southern states will soon be powered by wind: Alabama and Louisiana. When Alabama Power secured a power purchase agreement for TradeWind Energy to provide 202 MW of power from an Oklahoma wind farm, Matt Bowden, the utility’s vice president of environmental affairs said it all: “This agreement not only boosts our use of renewable energy, it also provides real savings for our customers,” he said. “It benefits both the environment and the people we serve.”

The savings are not unique. Just this month in Louisiana, the state public service commission approved a 20-year contract that utility Southwestern Electric Power Co. of Shreveport signed for power coming from a Kansas wind farm. Commissioner Foster Campbell noted the deal will lower costs for consumers. And more wind power will soon be generated in the South, with North Carolina and Florida both having utility-scale wind farms under development.

10- Republican candidates literally sign on to wind power, which figures prominently at Iowa Straw Poll. As seen in item No. 1, Iowa gets 20 percent of its electricity from wind power. So when the nation’s eyes turned to the Hawkeye State for the Iowa Republican Presidential Straw Poll in August, they caught a glimpse of what wind power has already done for Iowans and what it can do for America. Candidates for President and Iowa voters had the opportunity to literally touch the economic power of wind energy at the Straw Poll, where wind component manufacturer TPI Composites displayed a 130-foot-long wind turbine blade made right in Iowa, at a factory in Newton. In addition to Gov. Terry Branstad (R) and Iowa Senator Charles Grassley (R), signing the blade were then- and current presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, and Thaddeus McCotter. Candidate Rick Perry signed the very same blade just last week.


Next up: What to look for in wind power for 2012.


AWEA is the national trade association of America’s wind industry, with more than 2,400 member companies, including global leaders in wind power and energy development, wind turbine manufacturing, component and service suppliers, and the world’s largest wind power trade show, the WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition, which takes place next in Atlanta, June 2-6, 2012. AWEA is the voice of wind energy in the U.S., promoting renewable energy to power a cleaner, stronger America.  Look up information on wind energy at the AWEA website. Find insight on industry issues at AWEA’s blog Into the Wind. Join AWEA on Facebook. Follow AWEA on Twitter.

Wind turbines via shutterstock

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book

Holiday Wish Book Cover

Click to download.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

Zachary Shahan has 7143 posts and counting. See all posts by Zachary Shahan

8 thoughts on “Top 10 Wind Energy Stories of 2011

  • Pingback: 5 Wind Energy Trends to Watch for in 2012

  • Please update your page software. Its not user friendly and has no print or save document function.

    • We had a print function, but it seemed to be less than helpful. I can install something else, but the easiest thing, in my opinion (what i always do) is highlight the whole article, copy it, and paste it into a Doc or email — then you avoid all the stuff on the sidebars and on the top of the page. Does that not work for you?

  • Pingback: Top 10 Clean Tech Stories of 2011

  • It was nice for the AWEA to lobby the CEC and delist over 160 competing products and likely violate the Sherman antitrust act. Helping devastate the small wind industry in California by lobbying the CEC to shut down the ERP rebate program. Denying Californian’s access to now eclipsing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Match funds was a great Christmas present. Implemented testing standards made for mega turbines for small turbines showing blatant non understand of the field they portent to represent. Essentially we need to get rid of this shame organization and their $125k barrier for new companies . I hope we come to our senses and get rid of crony capitalism and implement Feed in Tariffs. Getting rid of barriers to innovation and paying for performance will drive the industry.

    • Could you send a link with more info on what you’re talking about — I have not read about this.

  • Pingback: Top 10 Clean Tech Stories of 2011

  • Don’t really see how any of these stories are a big deal. Story number 3 might be significant if it had to do with wind energy LCOE dropping. But since it only refers to turbine price drops, it really has no significance. These price drops are due to market oversupply conditions, and will be temporary.

    A big news item would be some development that results in a significant reduction in wind energy LCOE. Otherwise, these stories are just feel-good fluff.

Comments are closed.