WASHINGTON - The United States wind energy industry shattered all previous records in 2008 by installing 8,358 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity (enough to serve over 2 million homes), reported the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), even as it warned of an uncertain outlook for 2009 due to the continuing economic downturn.
The substantial growth in 2008 increased the nation’s total wind power generating capacity by 50 percent and invested approximately $17 billion into the economy, positioning wind power as one of the leading sources of new power generation in the country 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 association said that the new wind projects completed in 2008 account for about 42 percent 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 the road.
The amount that the industry brought online in the fourth quarter alone - 4,112 MW - exceeds annual additions for every year except 2007. In all, wind energy generating capacity in the U.S. now stands at 25,170 MW, producing enough electricity to power the equivalent of close to 7 million households.
Iowa, with 2,790 MW installed, surpassed California (2,517 MW) in wind power generating capacity. The top five states in terms of capacity installed are now:
• Texas, with 7,116 MW
• Iowa, with 2,790 MW
• California, with 2,517 MW
• Minnesota, with 1,752 MW
• Washington, with 1,375 MW
Oregon moved into the group of states with more than 1,000 MW installed, which now counts seven states: Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon.
State-by-state installation information is available at www.awea.org/projects.