With the fate of a key federal incentive in the balance, the U.S. wind energy industry continued new installations at a breakneck pace in the first quarter of 2008, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The association reported that the industry put 1400 megawatts (MW) worth approximately $3 billion of new generating capacity in place during the quarter.
“These new wind power plants, enough to serve the equivalent of 400,000 homes, coupled with investment in 17 new manufacturing facilities over the past year and a quarter, show that with consistent policy support America’s wind industry can deliver the goods in terms of clean energy and new clean technology jobs,” said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. “But if Congress does not act quickly, this momentum could be derailed at the worst possible time for the economy, placing 76,000 jobs and over $11.5 billion in investment at risk. While 2008 is shaping up to be another great year, we could see a very different story in 2009 as uncertainty looms over investment in wind power projects and manufacturing due to the continuing delay in extending the production tax credit (PTC).” The PTC is the primary federal incentive for wind power; it expires at the end of the year, along with incentives for other renewable electricity sources.
The new wind power facilities installed in the first quarter span 10 states and bring total U.S. wind power capacity to over 18,000 MW, or enough to serve the equivalent of five million homes. Texas added over half of this new capacity and now has well over 5000 MW installed. Over 4000 MW of projects are now also under construction nationwide.
Additionally, AWEA reported an increase in the share of U.S.-made wind turbine components, from less than 30% to approximately 50% in three years. Prior to 2005, AWEA estimates that less than a third of components were manufactured domestically. But the relatively stable availability of the PTC since August 2005 has allowed U.S.-based supply chain providers to begin establishing a much stronger foundation of domestic manufacturing for turbine components, which range from towers and blades to gearboxes, bearings, and electrical and electronic components.
AWEA estimates that, by the end of 2008, approximately half of turbine components for turbines installed in the U.S. will be produced domestically. In 2007 and early 2008, at least 17 manufacturing facilities have been brought online or expanded in the U.S., creating over 4000 jobs and $500 million in manufacturing investment.
Adjustment to final numbers for megawatts of wind power installed in the U.S. in 2007 show a slight increase to 5249 MW, up from the 5244 MW announced in January. Since actual installed capacity for natural gas was less than expected in 2007, new wind power facilities in fact made up close to 35% of the entire new power generating capacity added in the U.S. last year, up from the 30% initially reported in January.
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