With the installation of 908 utility-scale turbines in the first quarter of 2017, the U.S. wind industry is boasting its strongest start in eight years, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) U.S. Wind Industry First Quarter 2017 Market Report.
New wind turbine installations in the first quarter totaled 2 GW of capacity and spanned the U.S. – from Rhode Island and North Carolina to Oregon and Hawaii. Great Plains states Texas (724 MW) and Kansas (481 MW) led the pack, says AWEA.
According to AWEA, the early burst of activity reflects how 500 factories in America’s wind power supply chain and over 100,000 wind workers are putting stable, multiyear federal policy to work: The industry is now in year three of a five-year phase-down of the production tax credit.
The report says Texas continues as the overall national leader for wind power capacity with 21 GW installed – which is enough to power more than 5 million average homes.
Notably, North Carolina became the 41st state to harness wind power when it brought online the first wind farm to be built in the Southeast in 12 years: Avangrid Renewables’ Amazon Wind Farm US East.
Horace Pritchard, one of nearly 60 landowners associated with the North Carolina project, explains what it means to him and his neighbors:
“Farms have been growing corn, soybeans and wheat for a long time here, and the wind farm revenue means a lot of families are protected from pricing swings, floods or droughts going forward. We’re just adding another locally grown crop to our fields, with very little ground taken out of production, and the improved roads really help with access. So it’s a great fit here.”
AWEA notes that expanding wind farms continue to benefit rural America, considering over 99% of wind projects are built in rural communities. According to AWEA’s recently released 2016 Annual Market Report, wind now pays over $245 million per year in land-lease payments to local landowners – many of them being farmers and ranchers.
Further, American wind manufacturing facilities remained busy in the first quarter. With 4,466 MW in new construction and advanced development announcements recorded in the first quarter, the near-term pipeline has reached 20,977 MW of wind capacity; that’s about as much as the entire Texas wind fleet’s existing capacity, AWEA points out.
Additionally, demand remained strong in the first quarter, the report says. There was 1,781 MW of wind power signed in long-term contracts – representing the most in a first quarter since 2013. Utilities and Fortune 500 companies frequently sign these power purchase agreements (PPAs), and in the first quarter, Home Depot and Intuit – the maker of TurboTax – joined a host of Fortune 500 companies, such as GM, Walmart and Microsoft, that purchase wind power.
AWEA says wind is also supplying a growing number of cities, universities and other organizations, including the U.S. Department of Defense. Notably, in the first quarter, a Texas wind farm came online to supply a PPA with the U.S. Army.
“We switched on more megawatts in the first quarter than in the first three quarters of last year combined,” states Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “Each new modern wind turbine supports 44 years of full-time employment over its lifespan, so the turbines we installed in just these three months represent nearly 40,000 job years for American workers.”