Wind Adds One-Third of New US Grid Capacity in 2011

Every day, more evidence builds about what’s at stake if the US lets the wind production tax credit (PTC) die at the end of 2012.

Here’s some more. Not only did wind energy account for a whopping 32% of all the new electricity capacity added to the US grid last year, almost 70% of the equipment that was installed was produced by domestic manufacturers, reports the Department of Energy (DOE).

The US wind industry generated more than $14 billion in new investment last year, according to the DOE’s 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report. Close to 6,800 megawatts (MW) of new capacity was added in 2011, a 31% increase from 2010.

This year, the industry has already added more than 3,000 MW of new wind power, and the industry now tops 50 gigawatts (GW) in capacity. That’s enough electricity to run 13 million homes — all the homes in Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin Virginia, Alabama and Connecticut combined.

What’s more, the price of wind under long-term power purchase contracts with utilities was 40% lower last year than in 2010, making wind power competitive with a range of wholesale power prices, says the DOE.

So, killing the PTC would be a dual blow to the economic recovery: it would cut off a viable new source of electricity, and it would result in the loss of thousands of jobs

“This report shows that America can lead the world in the global race to manufacture and deploy clean energy technologies,” says Energy Secretary Steven Chu.  “The wind industry employs tens of thousands of American workers and has played a key role in helping to more than double wind power over the last four years.”

The complete US wind industry report can be found here.

Wind Job Cuts Are Starting

The layoffs are already coming across the sector, which employs about 75,000 across the US. Early this week, the world’s largest turbine maker said it would lay off about 20% of the staff at a 450-person plant in Pueblo, Colorado. It is looking at cutting about 3% of its total workforce right now.

Wind tower maker DMI Industries Inc. of Tulsa, Oklahoma, plans to shut down entirely and job cuts are coming LM Wind Power in Arkansas and Trinity Industries in Texas.

The American Wind Energy Association has estimated that up to 37,000 jobs could be lost if the wind PTC isn’t extended.

The U.S. wind energy sector employs about 75,000 people across the states already mentioned as well as in Illinois and Iowa, which has more manufacturing facilities than any other state.

For an interactive map of US wind manufacturing facilities:

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