Who are the Joneses and how do you keep up with them anyway? When it comes to wind energy, the answer is in the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) Annual Market Report, which provides a benchmark for the growing industry.
Despite a constant boom-and-bust cycle, wind energy continues to flourish. For the past five years, wind power has been one of the largest new power sources, second only to natural gas. According to AWEA, in 2009 the U.S. had its best year to-date for wind turbine installations with 10,000 megawatts (MW) installed. That makes the overall capacity approximately 35,000 MW, which accounts for 39 percent of all new generating capacity in the U.S. and 1.8 percent of total U.S. power—a .5 percent increase from 2008. By comparison, Germany and China have installed approximately 25,000 MW.
“There were turbine installation drops in 2000, 2002 and 2004 due to the expiration of the Production Tax Credit, which is a federal incentive that encourages the development of wind projects,” explains Elizabeth Salerno, AWEA’s director of industry data and analysis. “The program was only ever extended a year at a time and then it was allowed to expire from anywhere between a few months to an entire year. It created a cliff of activity and every time the incentive expired, the amount of MWs installed dropped 70 to 90 percent. That wreaks havoc, especially on the manufacturing side of the sector, because if you don’t know what the industry looks like a few months from now, it’s difficult to establish a manufacturing sector.” However, since 2004, the percent growth rate has stayed above 20 percent.
U.S. Annual and Cumulative Wind Power Capacity Growth
But wind energy isn’t the only growing area. All renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, geothermal, wood and other biomass, provided 10.5 percent of the U.S. power mix in 2009 and continue to grow. “With the significant increase in renewable energy capacity over the past several years, the power mix reflects a steady shift towards renewable forms of energy,” says Salerno.