April 14, 2009

Wind Industry In The US Still Strong

In the burgeoning industry of wind energy, Texas remains the undisputed leader, but competition in other areas of the country is growing fierce.   According to a new report released by the American Wind Energy Association on Monday, the state of Iowa has recently unseated California for the number two spot,

Producing more than 7,100 megawatts of wind energy per year, Texas far outshines Iowa and California, who generate 2,791 and 2,517 megawatts per year, respectively.  But in states like Iowa and Minnesota, the wind industry has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, providing more than 7 percent of each state's total energy in 2008.

This year the Renewable Electricity Standard act will be up for a vote in Congress which, if passed, would require utility companies to obtain at least a quarter of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025.

With the probable passage of the law looming on the horizon, states are scrambling to find ways to entice wind energy companies to bring their businesses and their jobs within their borders.

In 2008 the number of people employed by the wind industry grew by a dramatic 70 percent to 85,000, said Denise Bode, the chief executive of the association.

"We need the right policies in place for our industry to maintain its momentum," she said in Monday's press release.

With the global economy seemingly locked in a downward spiral, investments in renewable energy around the world have plummeted by hundreds of billions of dollars in the first quarter of 2009.  According to New Energy Finance, and research firm for the industry, investments in all forms of green energy have suffered a staggering drop in the last several months, falling from $2.1 billion to $100 million.

Still, 2008 was an exceptionally good year for wind year.

Wind farms across the country are expected to generate roughly 73 billion kilowatt hours of power this year "“ enough energy to power 7 million American households, according to the association.  The group's study also reported that 2008 saw the start-up of 10 new wind power facilities, the announcement of 30 new plants and another 17 that expanded their operations.

States like Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Utah saw the most dramatic growth last year, while Indiana got its first utility-scale wind facility.

But it was the already established leaders in the industry that saw the biggest expansion last year.  Texas increased its capacity by almost 2,700 megawatts in 2008 while Iowa added 1,600 megawatts to its total.  Other states like Minnesota, New York and Kansas also expanded significantly, each adding between 400-455 megawatts to their networks.

Industry giant NextEra Energy Resources, a subsidiary of FPL Group Inc., controls a whopping 25 percent of the total wind projects in the U.S., producing some 6,290 megawatts in 2008 alone.  Smaller companies like Iberdola Renewables, MidAmerican Energy and Horizon-Energia de Portugal constitute the next 25 percent of the industry.

In 2008, GE Energy was responsible for installing some 43 percent of the new turbines put into use, while Vestas, Siemens and Suzlon, and Gamesa combined to supply a total of 29 percent to the industry.


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