Washington, D.C. — The U.S. wind industry installed 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity in 2009, breaking all previous records, but still lags in manufacturing, according to a report from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
Although 4,041 MW were completed in the fourth quarter, it was still lower than the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the study.
AWEA’s fourth quarter report indicates that these new projects place wind power in line with natural gas as the leading source of electricity generation in the U.S. Together, the two sources account for about 80 percent of the new capacity added in the country last year, reports AWEA.
Despite the new generating capacity, the U.S. wind turbine manufacturing sector is down compared to last year’s levels. AWEA CEO Denise Bode says the industry “needs long-term policy certainty and market pull in order to grow.”
The study finds the continued lack of a long-term policy and market signal allowed investment in the manufacturing sector to drop compared to 2008, with one-third fewer wind power manufacturing facilities online, announced and expanded in 2009. The result was net job losses in the manufacturing sector, which were compounded by low orders and high inventory, reports AWEA.
However, AWEA says the Recovery Act manufacturing incentives that were announced at the start of this year will need to be supplemented with the hard targets of a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES).
The 9,922 MW installed last year expand the nation’s wind plant fleet by 39 percent and bring the total wind power generating capacity in the U.S to over 35,000 MW, according to the report. The five-year average annual growth rate for the industry is now 39 percent, up from 32 percent between 2003 and 2008, according to AWEA.
The study finds that U.S. wind projects generate enough to power the equivalent of 9.7 million homes, will avoid an estimated 62 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, and will conserve approximately 20 billion gallons of water annually, which would otherwise be withdrawn for steam or cooling in conventional power plants.
Texas still leads in wind power installation with 9,410 MW, followed by Iowa at 3,670 MW and California at 2,794 MW. Washington pulled ahead of Minnesota to take the number fourth slot with 1,980 MW, while Minnesota rounds out the top five states by wind power installed at 1,809 MW.