Clean Power

Published on January 31st, 2013 | by Andrew


Official: US Wind Power Accounted For 42% Of New Power Capacity In 2012, Beat Natural Gas

January 31st, 2013 by  

2012 proved to be a record-setting year for the US wind power industry. More than 13 gigawatts (GW) of wind power capacity was installed across the country last year, with a record-breaking 8,380 megawatts (MW) installed in the fourth quarter (4Q) alone, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) 4Q industry report.

Leveraging private sector investment of $25 billion, utility-scale wind turbines were installed in 26 states and Puerto Rico in 2012.

Cumulative wind power generation capacity totaled 60,007 GW as of year-end 2012, with turbines up and producing clean, renewable electrical power in 39 states and Puerto Rico. The 60 GW milestone was breached just five months after AWEA announced cumulative US wind power capacity had reached 50 GW.

2012: A Remarkable Year for US Wind Power

The more than 60 GW rated capacity of installed US wind power generation is enough to supply the equivalent of nearly 15 million US homes – all those in Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, and Ohio combined — with electricity, AWEA announced at a January 30 press conference in Washington, D.C.

2012 marks another milestone for US wind power: more wind power capacity was installed in the US last year than that from any other source for the first time, with wind power accounting for 42% of total new generation capacity installed, the AWEA highlighted. Texas, California, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Illinois led the nation in new wind power capacity installation for 2012.

2012’s total capacity of 13,124 MW of new wind power far exceeds that of the previous annual record, the 10,000 MW installed in 2010.

AWEA interim CEO Rob Gramlich highlighted the multiple, cross-cutting benefits wind power is yielding across US society in a year when the key federal production tax credit (PTC) seemed doomed to expire (the wind energy PTC was extended for another year at the last minute as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, the compromise legislative package that avoided the US government going over the so-called “fiscal cliff”):

It is a real testament to American innovation and hard work that for the first time ever a renewable energy source was number one in new capacity. We are thrilled to mark this major milestone in the nation’s progress toward a cleaner energy system.

What is just as striking as the new records is the expansion of new customers. A total of 66 utilities bought or owned wind power in 2012, up from 42 in 2011. We are also seeing growth in new customers in the industrial and commercial sectors purchasing or owning wind energy directly.

The fact that wind power grew by another 28 percent in 2012 alone and poured $25 billion of private investment into the U.S. last year demonstrates wind’s ability to scale up, and continue to serve as a leading source of energy in America.

The benefits extend to the environment, included that politically dreaded term climate change, as well as the economy. “Currently installed wind power will avoid 95.9 million metric tons a year of carbon dioxide emissions, equal to 1.8% of the entire country’s carbon emissions,” according to AWEA.

AWEA expects to release its full-year wind industry report in April. The following is the industry association’s top 10 list of US states in terms of newly installed wind power capacity for 2012:

1. Texas (1,826 MW)
2. California (1,656 MW)
3. Kansas (1,440 MW)
4. Oklahoma (1,127 MW)
5. Illinois (823 MW)
6. Iowa (814 MW)
7. Oregon (640 MW)
8. Michigan (611 MW)
9. Pennsylvania (550 MW)
10. Colorado (496 MW)

Source: AWEA

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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

  • Save Earth For Our Children

    Accounting for energy sources in MW units completely ignores Capacity Factor. A wind farm with a peak capacity of 1MW will contribute an average power of only 0.25MW. This is because wind capacity factor is typically only 25%.

    Natural gas capacity factor is 90+%. So accounting for energy sources in MW units artificially overstates contributions of intermittent sources (wind, solar, hydro). When you plot MW metrics in bar graphs, wind is wrongly shown to be 3-4x larger than it actually is compared with baseload sources such as NG, coal and nuclear.

    To properly account for source contribution, MW-hours should be used, but you rarely see this in citations, in large part because environmentally-minded people want the wind/solar numbers to look as good as possible.

    That said, it is true that wind made very good progress in 2012. We’ll have to see if that continues into 2013.

  • jackie cox

    Our energy future depends on the application, but thorium reactors and hydrogen fuels seem more likely than not to be our future along with petrochamicals rich in carbon compounds supplying virtually every sector of society with significant improvements

  • jackie cox

    wind and solar combined suppy our grid with near 2 % and cost 40 % more than regular grid suppliers

  • TheAmerican ….. IS it really such a QUANTUM jump in wind power and cost efficiency or over hype … ?

    They claim efficiency with as little TWO mph wind in NINETY % less land space and 2 cents per kWh with their “INVELOX” technolgy.

    I am a complete novice and would like to know what CURRENT wind technology that could used for individual homes has the lowest initial investment.

    Which has the lowest 5 year cost ?

    Does anyone have ideas ?

    • TheAmerican

      Could a technology be blended into a home that with structures similar to old fashion fire places “reversed” produce power from towers in place of a fire place

      • jeffhre

        Wind should likely never be placed onto the structure of a home. As Bob Wallace said, most homes won’t have enough wind that close to be feasible. If your home does, it would be located in a place that is considered nearly unlivable by many. (Do you get a lot of complaints about the wind where you live?)

        If there is enough wind for a feasible design, the the vibration and noise buffeting the house will be nothing short of awful.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I know people who run their homes on wind power.

          They all use free-standing wind towers, no mounted on the house stuff. I’ve been on multiple sailboats that were using small turbines for generation while anchored. The vibration and noise was really irritating.
          The people I know who live where there is enough wind to generate their electricity build their outdoor spaces away from the wind. Porches/decks on the downwind side of the house, wind fences/hedges for their lawns/gardens.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Are you asking if there is a small wind turbine that makes sense for individual homes?

      In my opinion, no.

      Small, low to the ground wind turbines produce little electricity per dollar invested compared to large swept area, tall turbines. Size really does matter in this instance.

      If it would be expensive for you to hook to the grid and have a decent wind source then there are some good options for tower mounted turbines.

      Paul has a good collection of household wind articles on his site.

      In short, rooftop solar is great. Rooftop wind is a waste of money. (Unless you live in a unique place with strong, regular wind and high electricity prices.)

    • jackie cox

      bot have niches but overall, wind and solar supply the grid with near 2 % of electricity at a 40 % greater cost than regular grid suppliers, there is a lot of P R Stunts trying, to make the obama admin look successful when a lawyer makes scientific opinions into law, the consequences can be very bad for the taxpayer, but what the hell, its not his money he is throwing away or watching silently as the fed loot the treasury

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  • Shiggity

    I should take the time to scan a few of my old utility bills with my new ones. Several suburbs north of Chicago renegotiated who they’re buying energy from and we got a significant amount of wind into the new mix. My old bill was around 11 cents per kWh, my new bill is around 4.5 cents per kWh but they also tack on an extra 5 cents per kWh for ‘transmission’ fees. I’m paying less, but you can see just how cheap wind really is, it’s just that they have to transmit it a long distance from central and west IL to get it into the city.

    Right now my electricity mix is Nuclear and Wind, fun combo 🙂

    • Bob_Wallace

      Apparently cheap wind and natural gas are giving nuclear a real problem. You might find this article an interesting read…

      “Even plants with no pressing repair problems are feeling the pinch, especially in places where wholesale prices are set in competitive markets.

      According to an internal industry document from the Electric Utility Cost Group, for the period 2008 to 2010, maintenance and fuel costs for the one-fourth of the reactor fleet with the highest costs averaged $51.42 per megawatt hour.

      That is perilously close to wholesale electricity costs these days.”

    • Yeah, I think a tiny % of people realize how cheap wind has gotten. The interesting thing that your comment brought to mind is this: as wind turbines get more and more efficient (which they are) and capable of being installed cost-effectively in more locations (i.e. closer to consumers), we may see the transmission issues less of a problem. But this is all just hypothesizing right now…

      • jackie cox

        they are aware of the reality behind the untold billions wasted on windmills–energy can’t be stored

    • jackie cox

      nuclear, the wind is someone passing gas

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