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American Wind Energy Industry Rebounded In 2014

The American Wind Energy Association has released its annual US Wind Industry Annual Market Report, which highlights a return to momentum for the country’s wind industry jobs and turbine deployment.

According to the US Wind Industry Annual Market Report, the US wind energy industry added 23,000 jobs in 2014, and began 2015 with 12,700 MW worth of wind energy projects under construction — “a record for the start of any year,” the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) concluded.

“These results show that extending the Production Tax Credit for wind power in 2013 was good for business in America,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “We’ve got a mainstream, Made-in-the-USA product that supports jobs in every state and is gaining momentum. With a more predictable policy we can add more jobs and keep this American success story going.”

The full report is available for purchase now, or download if you are a member of the AWEA, and “provides a comprehensive review of wind industry trends, industry rankings, and the market landscape through 2014.”

However, the accompanying press release put out by the AWEA highlights several key points from the report that are worth noting. Probably the most impressive highlight was a repeat of news the AWEA released in January of 2015 at the time of their fourth quarter 2014 report, which showed that the American wind energy industry brought over four times more wind energy online in 2014 than in 2013.

According to the January press release, “2014 saw the completion of 4,854 [MW] in generating capacity” brought online in 2014, “with cumulative installed capacity increasing eight percent to a total of 65,879 MW.”

2014 finished with the wind energy industry employing nearly 20,000 workers across more than 500 facilities in 43 states, with another 53,000 jobs in project development, construction, operations, and other parts of the industry. In fact, the US wind industry drover $12 billion in private investment in 2014, for a total of more than $100 billion since 2008.

However it is the value of the country’s Production Tax Credit (PTC) which the report highlights above all else, specifically its value in states like Iowa, where it has helped wind energy attract $10 billion in cumulative investment and supports 6,000 jobs.

“The PTC enabled the private sector to make critical investments in domestic manufacturing and the American workforce, driving significant cost reductions. That has driven technology improvements and cost reductions that are creating a modern-day ‘wind rush’ by opening up new areas for development,” said AWEA Deputy Director of Industry Data and Analysis Emily Williams. “We have utility-scale turbines operating in 39 states today, and if these trends continue and stable policy is in place, we can see wind deployment in even more states.”

It is Texas, though, leading the way in the US “wind rush,” with more projects, investment, and jobs.

According to the report’s authors, Texas currently has 7,500 MW of wind projects currently under construction — which equals more than all the other US states combined. Texas reaped $3 billion in investment in 2014, bringing the state’s total cumulative investment to over $26 billion. Such support for the state’s wind energy industry has led to the addition of over 9,000 jobs in 2014, bringing the state’s total wind energy jobs to 17,000.

AWEA-11

Following behind Texas are Iowa and Colorado with over 6,000 jobs each, Oklahoma with nearly 5,000 jobs, and Michigan with over 3,000 jobs.

In fact, the Texas wind energy industry was recently reported to have provided 6.2% of the state’s share of electricity in 2009, which grew to 10.6% in 2014.

Texas are behind in at least one category though, with Ohio again ranking number one in terms of wind energy manufacturing facilities, followed by Colorado and Iowa with the most manufacturing jobs.

AWEA-12

“The strong activity we’re seeing in Texas right now can be traced back to a strong, successful policy – namely the PTC,” said Steve Irvin, Executive Vice President of EDP Renewables North America. “Extending the tax credit is critical for us to have the stability we need to plan our business and do our part to help grow this homegrown industry.”

The wind energy industry in America has progressed by leaps and bounds over the past few years, with a “wind rush” in places like Texas, the Great Lakes states, and Southeastern US. AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan likens the growth in technology to that of the difference between the “Model T era to more like that of a Tesla.” Speaking earlier this month, Kiernan pointed to “taller towers, longer blades, and improved electronics to operate and maintain the turbines are all part of this revolution.”

“Every year, our industry makes wind turbines that are better, smarter, safer and more powerful,” said Chris Brown, President of Vestas-American Wind Technology. “Those innovations are bringing down the levelized cost of wind energy for American consumers. But we’re not done yet. Our goal each day is to keep working to bring wind on par with other traditional energy technologies in the near term.”

And, of course, any discussion of the US wind energy industry at this point must of course include a dig at China. I’ve covered the passive tête–à–tête between the US and China over who is the leading wind energy industry in the world. From February of this year:

“Some mistakenly believe that China has become the leading producer of wind energy, surpassing the U.S. in this sector like so many others,” wrote James Walker in a post currently attributed to January 19, but which was also published back in November as well. “However, a better measure is the total amount of electricity, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), that each country produces from wind and delivers to customers each year.”

 The AWEA report again highlighted America’s wind energy production, which apparently produced 181 billion kWh of wind energy in 2014, “enough to power the equivalent of 16.7 million American homes.” Specifically, Iowa led the nation by generating 28.5% of its electricity from wind power, followed by South Dakota with 25.3% and Kansas with 21.7%.

However, the US doesn’t have long to gloat over its supposed wind energy lead. China has installed much more than the US has, and according to Pranav Srivastava, GlobalData’s Analyst covering Power, China will “surpass US wind power generation by 2016.”

Nevertheless, the US is currently making impressive headway in its wind energy industry, and will no doubt remain a global player for many years to come. But as most renewable energy reports conclude these days, this headway will only continue with policy certainty. The report’s authors make it clear that “extending the PTC for as long as possible, as soon as possible, will ensure that the wind industry can continue making investments in American manufacturing to lower costs and improve productivity.”

 
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I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.

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