US tops wind technology list

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North America was one of the fastest-growing wind power markets in the world in 2009, second only to China, according to a report released today.

The 2009 report, entitled Wind Technologies Market Report, was released by the US Department of Energy and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Wind power additions in the US set a new record in 2009, with 10GW of new capacity installed, representing an investment of $21bn (£13.2bn).

‘At this pace, wind power is on a path to becoming a significant contributor to the US power mix,’ said co-author Ryan Wiser, a scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD). ‘Wind power projects accounted for 39 per cent of all new electricity generating capacity added in the US in 2009, and wind energy is now able to deliver 2.5 per cent of the nation’s electricity supply.’

Distribution

The report says that growth is distributed across much of the US. Texas led with 2,292MW of new wind power capacity, but 28 states saw new wind power plants constructed within their borders in 2009.

Wind power is now said to provide more than 10 per cent of in-state electricity generation in four states: Iowa (20 per cent), South Dakota (13 per cent), North Dakota (12 per cent) and Minnesota (11 per cent).

Offshore wind power project and policy developments also accelerated in 2009.

Imports

For the first time, the report presents estimates of the proportion of US wind turbine equipment costs that have derived from imports from other countries, finding that a growing percentage of equipment is being manufactured domestically.

Trade data shows that the US remained a large importer of wind turbine equipment in 2009, with $4.2bn of imports, up from $2.5bn in 2006, but down from $4.6bn in 2007 and $5.4bn in 2008.

Wind power capacity growth is said to have outpaced growth in imports in recent years, and a growing amount of the equipment used in wind power projects is being sourced domestically as domestic and foreign companies seek to minimise transportation costs and currency risks by establishing local manufacturing capabilities.

Projections

Looking ahead, the report says expectations are for a slower year in 2010.

Lower expectations stem from a combination of the financial crisis, lower wholesale electricity prices, and lower demand for renewable energy.

Projections among industry analysts range from 5,500MW to 8,000MW of wind power capacity likely to be installed in the US in 2010, a drop of 20 to 45 per cent compared with the almost 10,000MW installed in 2009.

After a slower 2010, most predictions show market resurgence in 2011 and 2012, as programmes funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act mature and as financing constraints ease.

Beyond 2012, however, the picture is claimed to be considerably less certain, because of the scheduled expiration of a number of federal policies at the end of that year.