Installed wind capacity is enough to supply 6% of US electricity, thanks to many projects coming online at the end of the year ... to beat the expiring Production Tax Credit (PTC).
In 2012, wind grew 28%, with a record 13.2 gigawatts (GW) of wind turbines were installed - 5.5 GW in December alone. That energy is coming from 190 new wind projects installed in 32 states and Puerto Rico and represents $25 billion of private investment.
The US now has 60 GW of wind installed, enough to power 15 million homes, up from 50 GW reported just last August. The amount of carbon emissions avoided through these wind farms equals 1.8% of US emissions.
Also in 2012, for the first time wind energy is the top source of new electricity capacity in the US. 42% of new capacity added came from wind and 55% came from all renewables combined.
"What is just as striking as the new records is the expansion of new customers. A total of 66 utilities bought or owned wind power in 2012, up from 42 in 2011. We are also seeing growth in new customers in the industrial and commercial sectors purchasing or owning wind energy directly," says Rob Gramlich, Interim CEO of American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
New wind power purchasers last year included at least 18 industrial buyers, 11 schools and universities, and eight towns or cities, showing a significant trend toward nontraditional power purchasers from the industrial sector, AWEA says. Manufacturers of everything from plastics to light bulbs, semiconductors, farms, and medical centers are now directly purchasing wind power.
Top states for new installations in 2012:
|1. Texas (1,826 MW)
2. California (1,656 MW)
3. Kansas (1,440 MW)
4. Oklahoma (1,127 MW)
5. Illinois (823 MW)
|6. Iowa (814 MW)
7. Oregon (640 MW)
8. Michigan (611 MW)
9. Pennsylvania (550 MW)
10. Colorado (496 MW)
Unfortunately, the same growth won't happen in 2013, because the PTC, renewed at the very last minute as part of the fiscal cliff deal, came too late. Wind projects have to be planned well in advance, so there isn't much backlog for projects this year.
Congress renewed the PTC for only one year, which continues the industry's boom and bust cycle in the US. The only positive is that wind farms can get the credit as long as they begin construction in 2013. Still, we hear that developers are waiting for clarity on exactly what that means.
Meanwhile, the cost of electricity from wind has dropped 21% over the last two years because of declining prices for turbine equipment that also produces more energy.
General Electric's new 2.5 MW turbine, for example, is 25% more efficient and generates 15% more energy in low wind speed sites than it's previous model.
"Our 2.5-120 is the first wind turbine that utilizes the Industrial Internet to help manage the intermittency of wind, providing smooth, predictable power to the world regardless of what Mother Nature throws its way," says Vic Abate, vice president of GE's renewable energy business. "Analyzing tens of thousands of data points every second, the turbine integrates energy storage and advanced forecasting algorithms while communicating seamlessly with neighboring turbines, service technicians and customers."