The US wind energy industry left previous records in the dust with a blowout year in 2001, installing nearly 1,700 MW or $1.7 billion worth of new generating equipment in 16 states, according to the Washington, DC-based American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
The final tally of 1,694 MW was more than double the previous record year of 1999, when 732 MW was installed, and boosted the industry’s total generating capacity by more than 60% over the amount in place a year earlier.
Current installed capacity in the US is now 4,258 MW, and there are wind turbine installations in 26 states.
‘2001 was an astonishing year for our industry in the US.,’ commented AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher.
‘More new wind generation was installed in a single state – Texas (over 900 MW) – than had ever been installed in the entire country in a single year.’
The new wind farms installed in 2001, AWEA said, will produce as much electricity annually as 475,000 average American households use, and will displace emissions of three million tons of carbon dioxide (the leading greenhouse gas) and more than 27,000 tons of noxious air pollutants each year.
While the wind industry rewrote the record books, prospects for a repeat in 2002 have been thrown into doubt by the expiration of a key incentive, the federal wind production tax credit (PTC), which expired December 31 and was not renewed by Congress, due to a partisan battle over economic stimulus legislation.
Bills to renew the PTC had strong support in both the House of Representatives and Senate, AWEA said, but were left unpassed when negotiations between the two parties on the economic legislation (which included the PTC extension) broke down shortly before Christmas.
‘There are hundreds of megawatts’ worth of wind power projects, representing hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in states like Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, and West Virginia, which will not go forward this year unless Congress reinstates the wind energy Production Tax Credit early in this year’s session,’ said Samuel E. Enfield, Vice President of Development for wind developer Atlantic Renewable Energy Corp.
‘This has to be done on a timely basis, if we are to be able to plan for and order the long-lead-time capital equipment that will go into these projects.
‘These projects aren’t just important to helping maintain the growth of the wind power industry, which has been the fastest-growing energy industry in the world over the past decade. These projects are also important to the hundreds of people who will be involved in their construction and the dozens of operations personnel they will employ on a permanent basis. These projects are important to rural economies across the nation, where farmers and ranchers will share in the income they generate. Not least of all, they represent the cleanest form of cost-effective electric generation available to the nation.’
The wind farms completed in 2001, AWEA said, will generate approximately $5 million in payments to landowners annually and create some 200 skilled, long-term jobs in areas where such employment is scarce. The trade group urged swift approval of the PTC extension, which Swisher called ‘vital to continuing the industry’s momentum.
‘Wind is well on its way to providing 6% of our nation’s electricity – as much as 25 million households use annually – by the year 2020,’ Swisher added.
‘That’s a readily achievable goal, and we could easily exceed it. But for that to happen, we need strong and consistent policy support from our federal and state governments. The PTC works, and it works well, as the past year has shown. It should be extended as soon as possible.’