Banner year for US wind

A new report from the US government outlines the recent rapid growth of the wind sector – and with it prices are falling fast.

US Department of Energy

This week, the Energy Department and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released a new report highlighting strong growth in America’s wind energy market in 2011 and underscoring the importance of continued policy support and clean energy tax credits to ensure that the US remains a leading producer and manufacturer in this booming global industry.

We need an all-of-the-above approach to American energy and the US wind industry is a critical part of this strategy. In fact, wind energy contributed 32 per cent of all new US electric capacity additions last year, representing $14 billion in new investment.

In the United States, domestic clean energy production and manufacturing competitiveness work hand-in-hand. The report finds total US wind power capacity grew to 47,000 megawatts by the end of 2011 and has since grown to 50,000 megawatts, enough to power 12 million homes annually – as many homes as in the entire state of California. And as wind energy capacity has grown, more and more wind turbines and components like towers, blades, gears, and generators are ‘Made in America’. Nearly 70 per cent of all of the equipment installed at US wind farms last year came from domestic manufacturers, doubling from 35 per cent in 2005.

This summer, Energy Department leaders have travelled across the US and seen first-hand the developments in the growing wind energy industry. In Iowa, Keystone Electrical Manufacturing Company has seen orders from the wind industry grow from almost nothing a decade ago to nearly 22 per cent of gross sales, while, at ACCIONA Windpower’s West Branch assembly plant more than 100 workers are making wind turbines to sell here in the US and around the world. Near Minneapolis, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 343 Union facility features a 60-foot turbine tower to help train union members for new construction, installation, and maintenance jobs.

In addition to strong gains in domestic wind manufacturing and capacity, the report finds that as wind technology improves, costs are coming down. Technological innovations are helping make longer and lighter wind turbine blades, while improving turbine performance and increasing the efficiency of power generation. At the same time, wind project capital and maintenance costs have continued to decline.

US Wind Turbine Transaction Prices over Time ($US)

Source: United States Department of Energy (2012)

Smart investments are paying dividends across the US wind industry. From Des Moines to Amarillo to Denver, the American clean energy economy is hard at work – creating jobs right now and ensuring our global competitiveness in the clean energy technologies of the future. We can’t afford to break this momentum.

Continued support of clean energy policies like the production tax credit are mission critical for America’s thriving, competitive wind industry – and shows, more than ever, the promise to create the high-paying American jobs and nationwide economic growth our country needs.

David Danielson is Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in the United States.

This is an edited version of an article originally published by the US Department of Energy.