Wind Energy Shatters Record

John Davis

aweaIt’s been another record-breaking year for wind energy in the United States.

A new report from the American Wind Energy Association says that the country’s wind energy industry in 2008 shattered the previous year’s record generating capacity by installing 8,358 megawatts (MW) of new capacity. That’s enough to light and heat more than 2 million homes! But at the same time, the association warns of an uncertain future because of the country’s financial bind:

The massive growth in 2008 swelled the nation’s total wind power generating capacity by 50% and channeled an investment of some $17 billion into the economy, positioning wind power as one of the leading sources of new power generation in the country today along with natural gas, AWEA added. At year’s end, however, financing for new projects and orders for turbine components slowed to a trickle and layoffs began to hit the wind turbine manufacturing sector.

“Our numbers are both exciting and sobering,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “The U.S. wind energy industry’s performance in 2008 confirms that wind is an economic and job creation dynamo, ready to deliver on the President’s call to double renewable energy production in three years. At the same time, it is clear that the economic and financial downturn have begun to take a serious toll on new wind development. We are already seeing layoffs in the area where wind’s promise is greatest for our economy: the wind power manufacturing sector. Quick action in the stimulus bill is vital to restore the industry’s momentum and create jobs as we help make our country more secure and leave a more stable climate for our children.”

The new wind projects completed in 2008 account for about 42% of the entire new power-producing capacity added nationally last year, according to initial estimates, and will avoid nearly 44 million tons of carbon emissions, the equivalent of taking over 7 million cars off of the road.

The AWEA says quick action on Pres. Obama’s economic recovery plan, which includes some provisions that would help the wind industry is needed as wind turbine makers and construction outfits are getting nervous about the future. The group points out that wind energy jobs grew dramatically in 2008 to 85,000… up from 50,000 a year ago.

The past year also marked a bit of the changing of the guard as Iowa surpassed California in the amount of wind power generating capacity, with Iowa having 2,790 MW and California with 2,517 MW. Of course, both are still far behind Texas, which has a whopping 7,116 MW.