This spring, the U.S. wind industry posted its busiest first quarter in history, installing 788 new turbines and 1,695 megawatts (MW) in 17 states. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), this brings cumulative U.S. wind power capacity to 48,611 MW as of March.
The pace has continued well into the summer, with 8,916 MW under construction in 31 states and Puerto Rico. The next few months will be especially busy as developers push to complete new installations before a federal wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) expires in December.
Because of the push to put new projects in service by the deadline, analysts expect a record increase in capacity by the end of 2012.
A state-by-state breakdown of installations documents the massive build out. It begins with Texas where, according to AWEA, even wind energy capacity is bigger. Texas has five of the country’s 10 largest wind farms and holds the lead in total MW installed so far. Here are the top five states:
- Texas – 10,648 MW
- Iowa – 4,410 MW
- California – 4,287 MW
- Illinois – 2,852 MW
- Minnesota – 2,718 MW
Although Midwestern regions tend to lead, growth is occurring even in less-windy states—especially for the manufacturing segment. Currently, 470 U.S. facilities produce wind turbine components, such as towers, blades and nacelles. Together with other market segments, such as land leasing and transmission and distribution, the industry represents an average $15.6 billion spend each year.
But the future of wind installations remains uncertain. Even though the federal wind PTC has expired and then been extended three times since enacted in 1992, the uncertainty over whether Congress will extend it this time has caused significant market uncertainty; layoffs have already begun and the industry is bracing to lose 95 percent of installations in 2013 if the PTC expires.
We at Southwire can attest to the nation’s wind energy production by the rate of growth we’re seeing in our own renewable energy wire and cable product lines. What about you—what wind projects are you seeing in your state?
– Carol Godfrey