Wind in America

US wind energy installations now exceed 10,000 megawatts (MW) in generating capacity, and produce enough electricity on a typical day to power the equivalent of over 2.5 million homes.


US wind energy installations now exceed 10,000 megawatts (MW) in generating capacity, and produce enough electricity on a typical day to power the equivalent of over 2.5 million homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The record growth in wind power is driven by demand for the popular energy source and concerns over fuel price volatility and supply. It was also made possible by a timely renewal of the production tax credit (PTC), a federal incentive extended in the Energy Policy Act signed a year ago by President Bush.

Previously, the credit had been allowed to expire three times in seven years, and this uncertainty discouraged investment in wind turbine manufacturing in the country.


AWEA is calling for a long-term extension of the PTC before its scheduled expiration at the end of 2007 to avoid further “on-again-off-again”cycles and encourage long-term investment.

The industry is gaining momentum as it grows. The first commercial wind farms were constructed in California in the early 1980s, and after reaching 1,000MW in 1985, it took more than a decade for wind to reach the 2,000MW mark, in 1999.

Since then, however, installed capacity has grown fivefold. Today, the industry is installing more wind power in a single year (3,000MW expected in 2006) than the amount operating in the entire country in 2000 (2,500MW).

Wind was the second-largest source of new power generation in the US in 2005 after natural gas, and is likely be so again in 2006, according to the Energy Information Administration. Wind turbine manufacturing companies have recently opened facilities in Iowa (Clipper Windpower), Minnesota (Suzlon), and Pennsylvania (Gamesa), and wind turbine orders are creating jobs all the way down the supply chain, sometimes in areas that do not have a large wind resource, such as Louisiana.

Today’s 10,000MW of wind power are keeping 16 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the air every year. That’s equivalent to the amount of CO2 that would be absorbed by over 9,000 square miles of forest, an area about the size of Vermont.