, January 31, 2008 (ENS) - Overturning all previous records, the U.S. wind energy industry installed 5,244 megawatts of power in 2007, expanding the nation's total wind power generating capacity by 45 percent in a single calendar year and injecting an investment of over $9 billion into the economy, according to the American Wind Energy Association, AWEA.
The new wind projects account for about 30 percent of the entire new power-producing capacity added nationally in 2007 and will power the equivalent of 1.5 million American households annually.
"This is the third consecutive year of record-setting growth, establishing wind power as one of the largest sources of new electricity supply for the country," said Randall Swisher, executive director of the AWEA, which represents more than 1,200 member companies.
"This remarkable and accelerating growth is driven by strong demand, favorable economics, and a period of welcome relief from the on-again, off-again, boom-and-bust, cycle of the federal production tax credit for wind power," he said.
But, Swisher warns, the production tax credit and tax incentives for other renewable energy sources could lapse at the end of 2008, and the association is urging Congress and the president to extend the production tax credit in order to sustain this remarkable growth along with the manufacturing jobs, fresh economic opportunities, and reduction of global warming pollution that it provides."
The Senate Finance Committee Wednesday included an extension of the expiring tax credits for wind, solar, and other renewable energy technologies as part of its economic stimulus package now working its way through Congress.
The Finance Committee approved an amendment by Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, to provide for a one-year extension of expiring clean energy and energy efficiency tax credits.
"Today, the Finance Committee took real steps to not only give consumers the immediate financial relief they need, but also to address the underlying reasons for the weakness in our economy by including clean energy tax incentives in the stimulus package," said Cantwell.
"These incentives fit the very definition of stimulus – they are targeted and timely and will lead to tens of billions of dollars in investment and more than a 100 thousand new jobs in 2008," she said. "Only by accelerating our investment in clean sources of energy and energy-saving technologies can we get people and businesses real relief from crushing energy costs."
Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican and ranking member of the Committee on Finance, said, "Renewable energy production depends on investment. Investors need certainty. They won't put their money out for a wind energy facility unless there's a reasonable expectation that tax incentives will continue into the future."
"Production has to meet demand and alternative energy has never been in such demand as it is right now," Grassley said. "The high price of oil helped to start the economic downturn. The stimulus package should underscore the nation's commitment to energy efficiency and alternative energy."
Both senators represent states among the top five wind power producers in the country.
Clipper Windpower of Carpinteria, California, opened a new wind turbine manufacturing facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 2007.
Texas has the most installed wind generating capacity, with California in second place and Minnesota in third, with Iowa close behind. Washington rounds out the list of top five states.
GE Energy continued to lead in wind turbine sales, with 45 percent of the market in terms of new capacity installed.
FPL Energy remained atop the list of wind project developers, with 956 megawatts of new development in 2007 alone.
The U.S. wind power fleet now numbers 16,818 megawatts across 34 states, according to the latest AWEA data, released in a year end market report.
American wind farms will generate an estimated 48 billion kilowatt-hours of wind energy in 2008, just over one percent of U.S. electricity supply, powering the equivalent of over 4.5 million homes.
Swisher says that by reducing the need for other fuels used for electricity generation, lowering the pressure on their price, wind can save consumers money, even in regions with low or no wind resources.
Wind power's strong performance is expected to continue this year. AWEA estimates that 2008 could equal 2007 in new wind capacity installed.
Developers report that with strong demand for wind power across the country, wind turbines are sold out for the year. Still, AWEA projects that with more companies entering the market, more turbines will become available.
"The pace of growth in 2008 and beyond is expected to largely depend, not on turbine availability, but on the timing and duration of an extension of the federal production tax credit," the association said.
Wind power reduces global warming emissions, and wind farms help conserve water as they do not require water for steam or for cooling as other forms of power generation do.
The full AWEA annual report is online at: www.awea.org/Market_Report_Jan08.pdf and a state-by-state listing of existing and proposed wind energy projects is online at http://www.awea.org/projects
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.
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