Wind Industry Grows
by Jeniece Pettitt, Medill News Service
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. wind industry blew away all previous records in 2009, as more wind energy was added to the power supply than ever before, keeping the United States as the global wind leader.
The industry installed more than 10,000 megawatts of new generating capacity in 2009, enough to power 2.4 million homes, according to the annual report released Thursday by the American Wind Energy Association.
Last year, 5,700 individual turbines were installed, "not bad for a year with some economic slowdown," said Liz Salerno, AWEA director of industry data and analysis, at a New York City press conference .
Wind power accounted for 1.8% of U.S. power generation in 2009, up from 1.3% in 2008, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. All renewable energy sources made up 10.5% of the U.S. power supply in 2009, with hydroelectric power as the top renewable source.
Green energy and natural gas together accounted for more than 90% of all new generating capacity in 2009, according to the report.
The report showed that General Electric Co. remained on top in wind turbine sales, Xcel Energy Inc. was the top utilities provider of wind and U.S. NextEra Energy Resources LLC was No. 1 in wind power ownership.
America's wind industry has seen a 39% average growth rate for the past five years, according to Salerno, who expects the trend to continue. She said wind will likely account for more than 2% of the energy generation in this country by the end of this year.
Steve Sawyer, secretary general at the Global Wind Energy Council, said he is most astonished by a year-on-year market growth of 41%.
"Total investment in the sector was $63 billion globally," Sawyer said. "For the last 12 to 14 years, the wind industry has doubled its global install capacity approximately every 30 months and we would expect that to continue."
The wind industry supported 85,000 jobs in all 50 states last year, AWEA said.
"We do expect to see more jobs created, especially in manufacturing," said Suzanne Tegen, energy analyst for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. "Before 2007 most wind turbine components were imported, now over half of wind turbine components are from domestic facilities. We think this is a trend that is likely to continue."
Salerno said that 39 wind industry manufacturing facilities were added, announced or expanded in 2009 in the United States.
Comprehensive federal policy needs to be put into place in order for the industry to continue growing, the wind association said. Currently 29 countries and 29 states have a long-term renewable electric standard.
"We are the only major developed country that does not have a renewable energy standard or a functional standard," said Don Furman, the president of the board at AWEA. "That is the reason we are behind in terms of manufacturing. Unless we have a firm policy at the federal level, those jobs will go overseas."
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