This year, the United States passed Germany to become the world leader in wind generation, said the American Wind Energy Association in its year-end report.
AWEA says that this summer, the U.S. wind industry reached the 20,000-megawatt installed capacity milestone, doubling installed wind power generating capacity since 2006.
By the end of September, the U.S. had over 21,000 megawatts of wind capacity up and running. Germany had 22,300 megawatts, but U.S. windpower developers sprinted to the end of the year while German wind development slowed.
"With additional projects coming on line every week since, the wind industry is on its way to charting another record-shattering year of growth," AWEA said in its report.
That 21,000 megawatts of capacity are expected to generate over 60 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2009, enough to serve over 5.5 million American homes.
This means that in 2009 wind power is estimated to displace the burning of 30.4 million short tons of coal - enough to fill a coal train that would stretch 2,000 miles, from Washington, DC to the middle of Utah.
Workers attach the blades of a refurbished wind turbine that will be used to power the KILI radio station at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. (Photo by Bob Gough courtesy Native American Wind Interest Group)
AWEA calculates the 60 billion kilowatt hours of electricity generated by wind power next year will displace 91 million barrels of oil, or 560 billion cubic feet of natural gas - about nine percent of the natural gas used for electricity generation in the United States.
In October, as part of the $700 billion financial bailout law, the production and investment tax credits that benefit the wind industry and other renewable energy industries were approved by Congress and signed into law. The tax credit package will extend the renewable energy production tax credit for one year and the investment tax credit for eight years.
In May, the U.S. Department of Energy reported that wind power could provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030, supporting 500,000 jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as taking 140 million vehicles off the road, and saving four trillion gallons of water.
"Wind energy installations are well ahead of the curve for contributing 20 percent of the U.S. electric power supply by 2030 as envisioned by the U.S. Department of Energy," said outgoing AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher, who has held the post for the past 19 years.
On January 2, 2009, he will be replaced by Denise Bode, who is currently CEO of the American Clean Skies Foundation, an advocate for energy produced from natural gas based in Washington, DC.
Bode served for nine years on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and for seven years as president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.
"Denise Bode is an extremely dynamic and well-respected leader on energy issues in Washington, D.C.," said Swisher, "and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to AWEA. We are very fortunate to have such a talented and able individual available to lead the association at a time when renewable energy stands on the threshold of dramatically expanding its contribution to America's energy supply."
"I am thrilled by my new opportunity of working with the AWEA team to grow wind power in the U.S.," Bode said. "I am particularly proud of the role I played as Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner to bring commercial wind power to Oklahoma."
In 2008, the wind industry and environmental groups forged a new partnership. In November, 20 conservation and environmental groups and wind energy companies announced the creation of the American Wind Wildlife Institute to facilitate timely and responsible development of wind energy while protecting wildlife and wildlife habitat.
AWWI intends to serve as an example for other energy sectors by proactively addressing potential biodiversity impacts as wind energy is more widely deployed.
Rows of turbines at sunrise on the prairies at Ponnequin Wind Facility, Weld County, Colorado (Photo by Jenny Hager Photography courtesy NREL)
"Climate and energy are the issues of our time," said Julia Levin, global warming director at the National Audubon Society and the first chair of AWWI's board of directors. "AWWI will play a crucial role in developing the science, mapping and other tools needed to accelerate properly sited wind power development and begin reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions."
"Addressing global climate change demands a higher level of collaboration between different sectors and interests," said Jan Blittersdorf, CEO of NRG Systems and AWWI vice chair. "Development of clean, renewable wind energy and wildlife protection need not be mutually exclusive goals. It's my pleasure to work with industry and nonprofit leaders to make this vision a reality."
The seven nonprofit founding organizations of AWWI represent more than 4.3 million members nationwide. These groups include: Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists.
The remaining 13 founding AWWI members are wind industry businesses. They include: AES Wind Generation, BP Wind Energy, Babcock & Brown, enXco, Clipper Windpower, E.ON, GE Energy, Horizon Wind Energy, Iberdrola Renewable Energies USA, Nordic Windpower, NRG Systems, Renewable Energy Systems Americas and Vestas Americas.
"The expansion of wind power in the United States is essential to reduce heat-trapping emissions and limit the impacts of global warming on our nation's wildlife," said Dr. Peter Frumhoff, AWWI board member and director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Our new institute will work to ensure that wind power and wildlife can both thrive."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.