As many expected, new U.S. wind installations took a massive dive in 2013. However, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has released its U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report Year Ending 2013, which provides further details on some previously announced highlights from last year and offers even more success stories.
For example, AWEA notes that the industry ended 2013 with 61,110 MW operating in the U.S. across 46,100 wind turbines in 39 states and Puerto Rico. The 905 utility-scale wind projects operating exceeded 4% of the U.S. electricity generation during 2013 and are now able to power the equivalent of 15.5 million American homes. Meanwhile, AWEA says an average of $15 billion a year is invested in new projects, resulting in the industry posting a 19.5% average annual growth over the past five years.
Last year began slowly after a last-minute extension of the federal production tax credit (PTC) – leading to a 92% drop in U.S. installations, down from a record 13,131 MW in 2012. Nonetheless, AWEA notes that the 2013 ended with a historic 12,000 MW of new wind projects under construction.
"Increasingly, America is powered by wind energy," comments AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. "As utilities and Americans become more familiar with this affordable and reliable energy source, they want more of it. Our industry is responding with record construction numbers, more business for American factories, and more deployment of wind energy that has become a new cash crop for our farmers and ranchers."
AWEA adds that wind energy has become the primary choice for new energy capacity in wind-rich regions. Between 2011 and 2013, the report says wind energy delivered roughly 60% or more in the Pacific Northwest, Plains states and Midwest, and as much as 80% in the upper Midwest.
Wind's continued market penetration is also evident nationally: It contributed 31% of all new electric generation capacity in the U.S. over the past five years, underscoring how both utilities and ratepayers are gaining a better understanding of wind's affordability, reliability and other benefits, according to AWEA.
Other highlights from the report include the following:
Generation and penetration records: Wind energy provided over 60% of the electricity on utility Xcel Energy's Colorado system at one point last year, among several regions that broke records for wind generation at a given time. Year-round, wind energy in 2013 topped the 25% milestone in both Iowa and South Dakota. In total, AWEA says wind energy comprised 4.13% of the nation's electricity generation mix by year's end.Â
Advancing technology lowers costs: The cost of wind energy dropped 43% between 2008 and 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. AWEA says that reduction comes largely from the industry's continuing technological advances in several areas, from improved siting techniques to larger rotor diameters and taller towers, which now average 97 meters and 80.3 meters, respectively.
Geographically disperse benefits: Wind energy activity is now occurring in all 50 states, from project construction and operations to wind-related manufacturing. AWEA says the 905 U.S. wind projects span 39 states, while the 560 manufacturing facilities span 43 states.
Positive environmental impact: The report notes that operational wind energy projects, combined with the projects under construction, will avoid 115 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually – more than 5% of U.S. power sector emissions – while avoiding the consumption of over 36 billion gallons of water each year, because wind turbines use virtually no water in operation.
Transmission infrastructure build-out: AWEA says one important trend that bodes well for the industry is in the area of transmission, which is needed to link the U.S.' wind resources with demand centers. Over 10,000 MW of new transmission capacity was completed in 2013, and near-term projects could deliver another 60,000 MW of wind energy – allowing a doubling of the total amount of capacity installed today. AWEA says these power lines result from years of work, which must continue if growth is to be sustained.
The robust construction pace and other favorable indicators come as discussions continue in Congress over extension of the PTC, which expired at the end of 2013. AWEA says the wind industry needs an extension of tax incentive this year to restart the development process and continue the exciting momentum that ended 2013.
"In the last several years, and highlighted by the tremendous industry activity that ramped up in 2013, U.S. wind energy has shown what it can do for America," says Kiernan. "The time is now for Congress to give the industry a green light to keep contributing jobs and clean electrons to America, by providing a stable business environment for further investment."
More information on AWEA's full report is available here.