The U.S. wind energy industry installed 835 MW during the first half of this year – dwarfing the 1.6 MW installed during the first half of 2013, according to the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) Second Quarter 2014 Market Report. However, these latest figures still lag behind historical installation trends, due to policy uncertainty caused by the last-minute production tax credit (PTC) extension in 2013.
The report says 15 wind energy projects have been completed and gone online since the start of this year, adding 217 MW in the first quarter and 619 MW in the second quarter. As of June 30, total installed U.S. wind capacity stood at 61,946 MW. The report says the leading states for installed wind capacity are Texas (12,753 MW), California (5,829 MW), Iowa (5,177 MW), Illinois (3,568 MW), Oregon (3,153 MW) and Oklahoma (3,134 MW).
Furthermore, AWEA notes another 109 projects were under way at midyear, representing up to 14.6 GW of additional capacity. According to the report, Texas has by far the most wind energy under construction in the nation, with approximately 8.3 GW of the total. Another 6.2 GW are under construction in 20 other states, focused in the Midwest and Plains. The report says new activity began in the second quarter in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, North Dakota, Michigan, Maryland, California, and Indiana.
"The economic benefits of all these projects are significant," says Emily Williams, AWEA's manager of industry data and analysis. "They include U.S. manufacturing jobs, with many factories hiring new workers to meet demand, and all the local benefits from the capital investment of billions of dollars in rural America."
Tom Kiernan, CEO of the AWEA, notes that leading brands like Google, IKEA, MARS and Microsoft have announced new contracts or investments for additional wind energy since April. A variety of industries are also investing in their own on-site wind turbines: At the end of the second quarter, there were utility-scale turbines under construction at a brewery, a produce processing plant and a tribal casino.
AWEA says its new report comes as the U.S. industry continues to adjust to new rules signed into law at the start of 2013 for the federal PTC. The rules now allow any wind energy project that started construction or invested 5% of its capital by the end of 2013 to qualify for the PTC once the project starts generating energy for the grid.
Notably, further PTC guidance is expected soon from the Internal Revenue Service, and AWEA says that may help increase the percentage of projects with long-term power purchase agreements.
Nonetheless, Kiernan says action by Congress to extend the incentive is once again urgent in order to avoid another downturn in wind development. And although the tax extenders bill, known as the EXPIRE Act, includes a PTC renewal, the legislation is still pending in the U.S. Senate.
"We can double American wind power by 2020, and double again by 2030," Kiernan says, "if Congress gets the rules straight by extending these critical tax policies as soon as possible, and continues to work on long-term policies that would provide a more predictable business environment.
"Wind is a very good deal right now for American consumers, and with consistent policies we can build a lot more of it."