The most recent report published by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) shows that wind power grew 28% in the United States since 2011. 6,600 wind turbines were constructed across the country in 2012, bringing the total number of turbines to 45,100. This is a new installation record in the United States, and great news for an energy source that is among the fastest-growing in the country.
Wind power as an industry posted very strong numbers in 2012. Among them:
- Wind power accounted for 42% of new power capacity in 2012, beating even natural gas
- Wind power generated a total capacity of 13,124 megawatts (MW), far outnumbering the previous annual record of about 10,000 MW in 2010
- In August 2012, the United States reached 50 gigawatts (GW) of wind powered electricity generating capacity for the first time ever. This is the equivalent of 44 coal based power plants or 11 nuclear reactors
- The private sector invested nearly $25 billion in the wind energy industry in 2012
The wind industry will certainly be looking to improve upon its strong performance in 2012. The extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) is one way to do this. The PTC has been vital in bringing in money to the wind industry. Because of its success, there was a drop in tax equity and debt financing for wind projects in 2012 compared to previous years. Its extension is just one year, through 2013. However, there is a different standard this year that will help the wind industry: wind projects only have to be started by December 31, not completed, in order for companies to become eligible for the PTC.
The Obama administration has called for making the PTC permanent and refundable. Even if the PTC is not extended or made permanent, the AWEA believes that the wind industry in the United States is about six years away from unsupported cost-competitiveness.
The wind industry will also be buoyed by the growing American demand for wind energy. A March 2013 Gallup poll found that 71% of Americans believed that the United States should place more emphasis on the development of wind power. This is extremely good news, as wind power is a viable renewable energy source (especially in the Midwest), and one that can act as a hedge against volatile natural gas prices. Hopefully, wind power can continue its rapid progression into this year and in many years beyond.