Clean Power

Published on December 24th, 2012 | by Adam Johnston


Wind Generation Outpacing Natural Gas In US In 2012

December 24th, 2012 by  

Energy generation from wind is on target to beat natural gas in 2012, thanks to a mad dash by wind producers to finish projects, as the wind tax credit is set to expire on January 1st.

As of November 30th,  preliminary numbers have 6,579 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity created in the US, just nudging ahead of natural gas, which is at 6,335. It’s also about twice the amount of new coal power being produced, according to a recent Bloomberg article.

“Wind will very likely beat gas, but it may be close,” said Amy Grace, who heads wind energy analysis for New York–based Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“It’s very likely that we get over 8 gigawatts for 2012,” she said. Finalized data will come from Ventyx Inc. in January, 2013.

But with the end-of-year surge, it’s quite possible that we will get a lot more wind power by the end of the year.

New wind energy capacity could possibly reach as high as 12 gigawatts (GW), beating new gas turbines and possibly adding more new wind capacity in November and December as in all the rest of the year.

The impact of wind energy in the energy mix is starting to make a real impact, a big difference from just a few years ago, as noted by an industry expert:

“It shows that wind has firmly planted its foothold as a valuable energy source,” Jacob Susman, chief executive officer of New York wind developer OwnEnergy Inc., said in an interview. “Five years ago we had to drag utilities in kicking and screaming. Now they’ve got teams of experts who understand its value.”

However, the ongoing threat of the wind power production tax credit expiring looms large. If the credit were to expire, data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance points to US wind energy installations plummeting as much as 88% next year (to about 1.5 GW).

Recently, to address these concerns, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has put forward a plan to phase the credit by 2019, to prevent the potential loss of 37,000 wind energy jobs.

Critics, including senior vice president of Exelon Corp. Joseph Dominguez, who heads one of the largest US nuclear power plants, suggests the wind industry is strong enough to live without the tax credit, because of the strong installations recently:

“The wind energy industry has matured and is thriving today; the PTC is no longer needed,” Dominguez said in a Dec. 13 statement, opposing the AWEA plan.

The increase in wind installations, with the pending end of the tax credit, has benefited General  Electric (GE), said Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s CEO, in a recent teleconference call on December 17th.

“We’ll probably make more money this year than the rest of the industry combined in renewables,” Immelt said.

“We can’t control how the PTC works or doesn’t work, but we have a very strong competitive wind business that basically has done the job,” he said.

Can wind energy installations keep up this frantic pace? The next few months will be very interesting. We’ll see where the road takes the wind industry.

Source: Bloomberg 

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About the Author

is expected to complete the Professional Development Certificate in Renewable Energy from the University of Toronto by December 2017. Adam recently completed his Social Media Certificate from Algonquin College Continuing & Online Learning. Adam also graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a three-year B.A. combined major in Economics and Rhetoric, Writing & Communications in 2011. Adam owns a part-time tax preparation business. He also recently started up Salay Consulting and Social Media services, a part-time business which provides cleantech writing, analysis, and social media services. His eventual goal is to be a cleantech policy analyst. You can follow him on Twitter @adamjohnstonwpg or check out his business

  • Ronald Brak

    Natural gas is not a transitional energy source in Australia. Coal use is down, but so is natural gas consumption, with plans for new natural gas plants scrapped. This is mainly due to improved energy efficiency, rooftop solar, and wind power. The US is behind Australia, but as these three factors are in operation in the US, I expect demand for gas will drop there also.

    • Bob_Wallace

      What do you think will happen when efficiency has basically gone as far as it can and wind/solar have become sizable double digit electricity suppliers?

      I don’t think you have much hydro? Are you planning storage?

      In the western US we can go up to about 35% wind and solar with the grid as it is. Probably somewhat higher because we’ve installed more NG after that study was completed. What are the limits down there?

      • Ronald Brak

        That’s a big question. In my state we get about a third of our electricity from wind and solar. And as a result we’re increasing our state’s wind and solar capacity. As for planning, well, the Thomas the Tank Engine club are planning to use coal forever with wind and solar capacity expansion stopping dead once we reach our 20% renewable energy target. It doesn’t seem terribly realistic but it is their plan. In reality, as we are following Germany’s solar PV cost curve the end point for daytime electricity from solar currently appears to be all of it. Consider the following possibilities:

        1. Retail electricity prices are kept as they are resulting in point of use solar eventually providing most daytime electricity.

        2. Retail electricity prices are dropped in the day but raised in the evening to compensate resulting in the installation of point of use solar and home and business energy storage resulting in most electricity coming from solar.

        3. Retail prices are lowered in the day but not raised in the evening: Home and business storage sucks up daytime electricity and uses it at night. Lack of revenue causes generators to close down. People then install solar so they can listen to Justin Bieber and keep their beer cold.

        • Bob_Wallace

          #2 is interesting and the thing that could break the coal industry’s back. If someone like Aquion brings a better/cheaper battery to market then one could easily see end-user storage booming.

          Of course when/if we get cheap storage everyone’s game changes.

  • ronwagn

    Wind costs about twice as much as natural gas power, it is can be partnered with natural gas plants that supply base power however.

    Natural gas is the future of energy. It is replacing dirty old coal plants, and dangerous expensive nuclear plants. It will fuel cars, vans, buses, locomotives, aircraft, ships, tractors, air conditioners, engines of all kinds. It costs far less. It will help keep us out of more useless wars, where we shed our blood and money. It is used to make many products. It lowers CO2 emissions. Over 3,700 natural gas story links on my free blog. An annotated bibliography of live links, updated daily. The worldwide picture of natural gas.
    ronwagnersrants . blogspot . com

    • Bob_Wallace


      Natural gas generation, when you include operating costs – fuel, cost slightly more than wind.

      Check LCOEs…

      Natural gas is, at best, a temporary energy source. We will run out. The faster we use it, the more things we use it for (look at your list), the faster it will run out.

      NG is a useful transition fuel. We can use it to get coal off our grid quicker and to fill in for wind and solar while we develop affordable storage. But to view NG as an actual long term energy solution is foolish.
      Expanding our uses would also be unwise. NG could be a valuable asset in the future if we don’t foolishly burn it up.

      • ronwagn

        Thanks for the link. it does not agree with all the other such graphs I have seen, but we will see. I loved wind and solar, before I loved natural gas. Not loyal to my preconceived ideas. Wind and solar have their downsides too: visual blight, maintenance, noise etc. I want to see wind and solar compete without subsidies. Keep up on GE’s new fabric wind tubine blades. They may lower cost, and ease installation.

        I would like to see the color of wind turbines match the surrounding area. Maybe camo. Seriously.

      • ronwagn

        I added your link to my blog.

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