Wind farms generated 3.5% of US electricity in 2012, up from 2.9% in 2011., and although we don’t hear much about it, wind is quietly becoming a significant source of energy in many states.
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.
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.
In 2012, wind supplied almost 25% of the electricity for Iowa and South Dakota, at least 10% of the energy in seven other states.
Wind farms generated over 9% of the electricity used Texas last year. The state leads the US in overall wind development, growing 18% in 2012.
When it comes to wind, only four countries have more capacity than the 12.2 gigawatts installed in Texas.
After Texas, California has the most wind capacity in the US – with a total of 5.5 GW, it surpassed Iowa for the number 2 spot in 2012.
Minnesota is adding critical transmission infrastructure that will bring much wind online in the next couple of years.
All the top 10 states for wind have Renewable Portfolio Standards that require utilities to source a certain percentage of energy from renewables.
Obviously, wind still contributes only a small share of the energy in the US, but wind generation has quadrupled since 2007, growing by more than 30%, far exceeding the growth of any other electricity source.
Along with natural gas, the growth in wind is the reason coal use is declining at 5.5% a year. The same is true for nuclear, which is dropping 1% a year, making the anticipated "nuclear renaissance" unlikely.
The US now has 60 GW of wind online, enough to serve 15 million homes, after adding a record 13.2 GW last year.
Close to two thirds of this new capacity came online during the fourth quarter – nearly 60 wind projects, totaling over 5,000 megawatts – in December alone, as developers raced to complete construction before the PTC expired.
As we’ve report many times, orders plummeted in anticipation of the expiration, so even thought the PTC ended up being renewed for this year, it was too late to stoke any serious growth.
But although only 2-3 GW will likely be added this year, wind-generated electricity will still grow significantly from all those new projects that began operating in 2012.
Although wind is expected to rebound somewhat in 2014, it will still take a coherent longer term energy policy for the boom-bust cycle to end and for full development of this vast resource.
This article is adapted from data from Earth Policy Insititute: