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US wind energy industry installs 10 GW in 2009

The wind industry in the United States has broken all previous records by installing 10 GW of new capacity last year.

“The US wind energy industry shattered all installation records in 2009, chalking up the Recovery Act as a historic success in creating jobs, avoiding carbon, and protecting consumers,” says Denise Bode of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

Its latest quarterly report says the new wind turbines place wind energy “neck and neck” with natural gas as the leading source of new power generation in the USA and, together, these two sources account for 80% of the new power capacity added last year. 

Before the Recovery Act (ARRA) was passed, the US wind energy industry anticipated that 2009 might see development of wind energy drop by as much as 50% from 2008 levels, with equivalent job losses.

The “clear commitment” by President Obama to create clean energy jobs and the swift implementation of ARRA incentives reversed that situation, and ARRA incentives spurred the growth of construction, operations and maintenance, helping the industry to save and create jobs in those sectors and shine as a bright spot in the economy.

“But US wind turbine manufacturing - the canary in the mine - is down compared to last year’s levels, and needs long-term policy certainty and market pull in order to grow,” adds Bode. “We need to set hard targets, in the form of a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), in order to provide the necessary stability for manufacturers to expand their US operations and to seize the historic opportunity we have today to build up a thriving renewable energy industry.”

The continuing lack of a long-term policy and market signal prompted a decline in investment in the manufacturing sector compared with 2008, with one-third less wind energy manufacturing facilities announced or expanded during 2009. The result was net job losses in the manufacturing sector, compounded by low orders and high inventory.

The 9922 MW installed in 2009 expanded the US wind energy fleet by 39% and boosted total wind generating capacity to 35 GW. The five-year average annual growth rate for the US industry is 39%, up from 32% between 2003 and 2008. The 4041 MW completed in Q4 of last year made it the strongest of 2009 but still lower than Q4 2008.

Among the states, Texas consolidated its lead and Washington moved ahead of Minnesota in the ranking of the top five states by wind power installed. Texas has 9410 MW, Iowa 3670, California 2794, Washington 1980 and Minnesota has 1809 MW of installed wind turbines.

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