Big wind: Domestic capacity surpasses 50,000 MW

The United States wind industry surpassed 50,000 MW of total installed capacity in August, meaning the nation now has enough wind power to supply 13 million homes.

America has added 4,728 MW of wind power so far this year, with another 8,430 MW currently under construction, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said in an Oct. 18 news release.

The third quarter saw 1,833 MW of new installations, putting total U.S. wind capacity at 51,628 MW on Oct. 1. Over 40,000 wind turbines across the U.S. can now produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of all the homes in Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada combined, AWEA said. 

 The year-to-date total stood at 4,728 MW at the end of the quarter, up 40% from the same point in 2011. The average turbine size installed throughout the year continues to hover around 2 MW.

Over 80% of the new capacity coming online or under construction is covered by a long-term power off-take agreement, either through a power purchase agreement between a utility and a wind developer, or through direct utility ownership. In fact, projects online through the third quarter and under construction are either owned by or have contracted power with 68 different utilities, AWEA said.

Top states for installed new wind capacity during the third quarter include Kansas, on track to more than double the state’s wind capacity this year with 473 MW added; Oregon (333 MW); Texas (281 MW); Oklahoma (229 MW); and Nevada (152 MW).

The success of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) wind, which faces expiration, and the increasing affordability of wind power, helped drive turbine installations to record levels, AWEA said.

The PTC incentivizes over $15bn a year in private investment in U.S. wind projects. It currently is set to expire on Dec. 31. A proposal to extend the tax credit for projects that start construction next year won bipartisan support from the Senate Finance Committee on Aug. 2, as part of an overall “tax extenders” package. It now awaits action by the full Congress, expected in its lame duck session after the election.

At least one major wind generator, Exelon (NYSE: EXC), has suggested that the domestic wind power industry can manage without the tax credit.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.