US wind industry takes big stride forward in 2009

Global Climate Network, energy, resources, science and technology

Author(s):  David Nash
Published date:  29 Jan 2010
Source:  Global Climate Network

Despite dire predictions at the start of 2009, the US wind industry battled the odds to make record gains last year. According to the American Wind Energy Association's end-of-year report, the industry installed nearly 10,000 megawatts of new capacity in 2009, which represents an annual increase of 39% compared to 2008 figures.

Thanks to swift implementation of federal incentives under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the industry managed to avoid a predicted 50% decline in domestic turbine manufacturing in 2009. While overall investment and manufacturing were down compared to the previous year, the stimulus measures helped the industry preserve and create new jobs and deliver much needed alternative energy supplies.

Upon publication of the data, Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA, said that stronger federal policies on renewable energy are now needed if U.S. wind manufacturing is to stand firm and grow in the long term.

"[T]urbine manufacturing… needs long-term policy certainty and market pull in order to grow.  We need to set hard targets, in the form of a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), in order to provide the necessary stability for manufacturers to expand their U.S. operations and to seize the historic opportunity we have today to build up a thriving renewable energy industry”, said Bode.

In July 2009, the GCN released a report - based on findings from 100 interviews with industry, government and civil society experts in 8 countries - suggesting that strong and targeted government policies are needed to massively scale-up deployment of wind technologies and other renewable energy products. The report called for governments to ramp up investment in clean technologies, give greater support to R&D efforts and provide the right market signals for renewables by cutting subsidies for fossil fuels.

The U.S. is now the world's leading market for wind and has a total of 35,000 megawatts of installed wind energy. This, says Tom Kenworthy, at the Center for American Progress - the GCN's US member - is enough to power 9.7 million homes and is the equivalent of removing 62 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year.  Last year, wind power accounted for 40% of new installed electricity capacity making it one of the leading sources - alongside natural gas - of new electricity generation in the US.