Wind added 6,816 MW in 2011

Wind power installations recovered somewhat in 2011 as economic stimulus programs wound down and states strove to meet their renewable energy mandates.

The U.S. wind industry installed 6,816 MW in 2011, 31% higher than 2010, for a total of 46,916 MW installed in the U.S. to date, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) annual report, released April 12.

“In 2011, wind provided just a hair under 3% of total electricity in 2011,” said AWEA Chief Economist Elizabeth Salerno said during an association webinar. “To put this in perspective, we were under 1% just a few years ago.”

Wind capacity has increased with an average annual growth of 35% year-over-year over the past five years. Wind capacity captured 31% of new power plant construction in 2011, trailing natural gas, which grabbed 42% of the total.

The ownership model is shifting as well, as utilities become more comfortable with the technology, AWEA says. The majority of wind projects employ the power purchase agreement model, with third-party off-takers buying generation. But that is changing.

In the projects in 2011, 25% of those megawatts were under direct utility ownership. “That’s a strong increase from previous years when it was 15% of new assets,” Salerno said. “This is a hedging product that can be brought onto system and it can balance the portfolio if you’re exposed to technologies that have fluctuating prices.”

There are more than 8,300 MW under construction, setting the stage for a strong 2012. “There’s an uptick in project activity in every region of the country,” Salerno said.

South Dakota and Iowa lead a record five states that received more than 10% of their electricity from wind in 2011. Seven states have at least 4,000 wind jobs apiece, and the list shows the industry’s geographic reach, stretching from Iowa to Texas to Illinois, Ohio, Colorado, California and Michigan. Meanwhile, Kansas’ position at the top of the list for under construction wind projects is setting the stage for a very strong 2012.  

“American wind energy is creating American jobs and affordable electricity all across the country,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “We are powering one of the country’s biggest sources of Made-in-the-USA manufacturing jobs and a vital source of economic development despite the down economy.”

An uncertain policy landscape threatens continued growth in the sector.  The federal production tax credit is set to expire at year’s end, which has caused market disruptions. Projects are being accelerated to be completed this year to take advantage of the PTC, while no projects in the pipeline will be started next year until the uncertainty is cleared away.

“Right now for 2013 there are no projects on the table,” Salerno said. Turbine manufacturers have not received orders for 2013, as developers are not proceeding with projects, simply because o the uncertainty related to the PTC.”

In the past five years of bipartisan policy stability, AWEA says the industry has recorded several milestones. Highlights for wind development and associated manufacturing include:


  • Brought in as much as $20 billion annually in private investment to the U.S.


  • Created one of the largest providers of new American electric generation with 35% of all new power capacity, right behind natural gas.


  • Driven technology advances that have made wind more affordable than ever. A typical wind turbine now generates 30% more electricity – all while driving down costs. 


  • Created nearly 500 new American manufacturing facilities and employed 75,000 overall, including 30,000 in the manufacturing sector, from coast to coast.

Texas continues to lead the U.S. in installed capacity, with more 10,000 MW, or nearly one-fourth of the nation’s total.

Other highlights of the U.S. Wind Industry 2011 Market Report that AWEA released include:

Top states for wind generation as a percentage of their portfolio (Records: five states received more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind in 2011 and 13 received more than 5 percent)


1.       South Dakota: 22.3%

2.       Iowa: 18.8%

3.       North Dakota: 14.7%

4.       Minnesota: 12.7%

5.       Wyoming: 10.1%

6.       Colorado: 9.2%

7.       Kansas: 8.3%

8.       Oregon: 8.2%

9.       Idaho: 8.2%

10.     Oklahoma: 7.1%

11.     Texas: 6.9% (8.5% on ERCOT)

12.     New Mexico: 5.4%

13.     Washington: 5.3% 


Top ten states for wind projects under construction in 2012: 

  1. Kansas: 1,189 MW
  2. Texas: 857 MW
  3. California: 847 MW
  4. Oregon: 640 MW
  5. Illinois: 615 MW
  6. Pennsylvania: 520 MW
  7. Iowa: 470 MW
  8. Oklahoma: 393 MW
  9. Michigan: 348 MW
  10. Washington: 331 MW