U.S. Wind Industry Ends Year on Record Growth

U.S. Wind Industry Ends Year on Record Growth

The U.S. wind energy industry left previous records in the dust with a blowout year in 2001, installing nearly 1,700 megawatts (MW) or $1.7 billion worth of new generating equipment in 16 states, according to the Washington, D.C.-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. Installed capacity in the U.S. is 4,258 MW, with wind turbine installations underway in 26 states.

According to AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher, 2001 was an “astonishing year” for the wind industry in the U.S.

"More new wind generation (more than 900 MW) was installed in a single state, Texas, than had ever been installed in the entire country in a single year. We are finally beginning to tap into wind energy's enormous potential," Swisher said.

According to AWEA, the wind farms installed in 2001 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.

2002 Outlook Clouded

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.

According to Samuel E. Enfield, vice president of development for wind developer Atlantic Renewable Energy Corp, hundreds of megawatts’ worth of wind power projects, representing hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in states such as Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, and West Virginia, will not go forward this year unless Congress reinstates the wind energy Production Tax Credit early in this year’s session.

"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,” Enfield said.

AWEA, formed in 1974, is the national trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry. The association’s membership includes turbine manufacturers, wind project developers, utilities, academicians, and interested individuals.