According to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report for 2012, wind energy grew 28 percent in America last year, setting a new installation record. Wind energy topped all energy sources with a 42 percent of all new electric generating capacity. Over 6,700 new wind turbines were erected that produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 3.5 million homes. Overall, the U.S. finished the year with 45,100 wind turbines that can power 15.2 million homes.
AWEA says all 50 states benefited from the growth in wind energy through $25 billion in private investment in new U.S. wind farms, tens of millions of dollars paid to landowners and local communities in lease payments and property taxes, and billions in projected savings for electricity consumers. The impact of wind power development was so strong that an industry analyst said it caused a noticeable uptick in the entire U.S. economy in the fourth quarter.
Xcel Energy remains the number one utility provider of wind energy in the U.S. for the ninth consecutive year. At the end of 2012, Xcel Energy had nearly 4,900 megawatts of wind electricity generating capacity on its system, enough to power 1.5 million homes and at least 600 megawatts more than the next leading utility. Wind power currently represents about 12 percent of the energy the company supplies to its customers.
“I am proud that Xcel Energy is once again the nation’s leading clean energy utility,” said Ben Fowke, president, CEO and chairman of Xcel Energy. “Our customers and communities are strong supporters of renewable energy, and wind energy plays a vital role in our strategy to meet customers’ energy needs with clean, reliable, and affordable energy.”
AWEA says wind power also helped address the disaster-level drought affecting half of U.S. counties by saving over 35 billion gallons of fresh water (120 gallons for every American), versus other water-intensive energy sources. Wind energy also avoids over 4 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector annually.
“We had an incredibly productive year in 2012,” said Rob Gramlich, Interim CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “It really showed what this industry can do and the impact we can have with a continued national commitment to renewable energy. We’re doing what Americans overwhelmingly say they want: making more clean, renewable energy, and creating good jobs in U.S. factories.” AWEA’s report found that over 550 factories across the country provide parts and services for the wind energy industry, which provided 80,000 American jobs in 2012.
In addition to the industry’s record growth last year, a growing trend augured well for its future: new purchases of wind power by 74 electric utilities, along with at least 18 major industrial consumers and 11 school and universities – all taking advantage of the chance to diversify their energy portfolio and stabilize and lower energy costs, typically on long-term, fixed-rate contracts. Rising utility interest has been seen again this year since the PTC extension, with at least seven utilities issuing new requests for proposals to purchase over 1,000 MW of wind power.