US Wind Energy Capacity Growth Up 31 Percent in 2011

April 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

U.S. wind power capacity grew 31
percent in 2011, accounting for 35 percent of all new
electricity generation capacity, the American Wind Energy
Association said.

The U.S. wind industry installed 6.8 gigawatts last year,
to reach total capacity of 46.9 gigawatts, according to an
annual market report released by the industry group in New York
today.

More than 60 percent of last year’s installations, about
3.4 gigawatts, occurred in the fourth quarter, due to seasonal
weather and the expiration of the Treasury grant option, which
offered to cover as much as 30 percent of a project’s cost,
according to AWEA. In order to qualify, developers had to start
projects before the end of last year.

“This shows what wind power is capable of: building new
projects, powering local economies and creating jobs,” said
AWEA Chief Executive Officer Denise Bode.

About 3 percent of U.S. power came from wind last year. The
industry is seeking to provide 20 percent by 2030, AWEA said.
South Dakota led in terms of total electricity produced at 22.3
percent, followed by Iowa at 18.8 percent. California led with
921 megawatts installed, followed by Illinois with 693 megawatts
and Iowa with 647 megawatts.

NextEra Energy Resources LLC owns the most U.S. wind power
capacity with 9.3 gigawatts, or 17.8 percent, more than the
second- and third-largest owners, Iberdrola SA (IBE) and EDP
Renewables, combined.

Expiring Subsidies

The U.S. wind market started 2012 with 8.3 gigawatts of new
wind projects under construction, more than the 5.1 gigawatts
under way at the start of 2011, AWEA said. Kansas, Texas and
California had the most wind-power projects under construction.

Wind development is also being driven by the federal
Production Tax Credit, or PTC, which leverages as much as $20
billion a year in private investment, Bode said.

The tax credit is set to expire at the end of this year,
and the longer Congress waits to announce whether it’s extended
the more it will slow U.S. development, said Art Whittemore,
chief financial officer for Gamesa Technology Corp. (GAM)’s North
America unit.

“This isn’t the only important thing not getting done in
Washington,” Whittemore said today in an interview. “Even if
they extended the PTC today, it’s already too late for 2013
because the development cycle is too long. And it’s very
important that it isn’t just a one-year extension — a one-year
extension is almost no good.”

To contact the reporters on this story:
Ehren Goossens in New York at
egoossens1@bloomberg.net;
Justin Doom in New York at
jdoom1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Reed Landberg at
landberg@bloomberg.net

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