11 take-aways from AWEA’s wind energy report

Wind energy continued its forward march in 2013 as an ever-growing piece of the mainstream U.S. electricity mix, with a record number of projects and generating capacity under construction by year’s end, billions of dollars of continued private investment, and new records for generation in many areas.

This is according to the American Wind Energy Association’s U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report Year Ending 2013.

The U.S. 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 power projects operating here exceeded 4 percent of the U.S. electricity generation during 2013, and are now able to power the equivalent of 15.5 million American homes.


They will continue to deliver new, affordable, clean generation year after year. Meanwhile, an average of $15 billion a year is invested in new projects, resulting in the industry posting 19.5 percent average annual growth over the past five years.

“Increasingly, America is powered by wind energy,” said 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.”

The year began slowly after a last-minute extension of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for renewable energy on Jan. 2, 2013. The supply chain had slowed down during the months preceding the threatened expiration. As a result of the slowdown and the months needed to region momentum, the industry saw a 92 percent drop in installations, down from a record 13,131 MW in 2012 to just 1,087 MW in 2013. With a historic 12,000 MW and 100 projects under construction as 2013 drew to a close. This boom-bust pattern could continue if policy uncertainty continues.

“This year will be one of transformation as American wind power takes on new challenges, while maintaining its position as an energy source that crosses party lines and promotes economic development. AWEA’s WINDPOWER 2014 Expo, May 5-8 in Las Vegas, will tap its Transformation in Motion theme to drive the industry forward through the sharing of experiences and knowledge as well as the identification of opportunities for collaboration among the industry’s capable members,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA.

Wind energy has become the primary choice for new energy capacity in wind-rich regions. Between 2011 and 2013, wind energy delivered roughly 60 percent or more in the Pacific Northwest, Plains states and Midwest, and as much as 80 percent in the upper Midwest. As a matter of fact, renewable energy sources were the single largest source of new energy capacity in all regions across the country outside of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, from 2011 through 2013.

Wind’s continued market penetration is also evident nationally: It contributed 31 percent 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.

Here are some of the take-aways from AWEA’s latest report:

Wind as leading new energy source: Wind energy was the primary new choice for new power in the wind-rich regions of the Pacific Northwest, Plains states, and Midwest, providing 60 percent or more of all new electric generating capacity between 2011 and 2013, and delivering over 80 percent of all new capacity in the strongest wind resource regions of the upper Midwest.

Historic construction activity: A record number of wind projects were under construction at the end of 2013, with over 12,000 MW across 100 wind projects in the process of getting built. An additional 5,200 MW of project capacity secured long-term offtake during the year but had yet to start construction by the end of 2013.

Investment into U.S. economy: Over the past five years, the U.S. wind energy industry on average has invested over $15 billion annually in new wind power projects.

Generation records set: Wind energy delivered over 25 percent of the electricity produced in Iowa and South Dakota in 2013. Wind energy provided over 60 percent of the electricity on utility Xcel Energy’s Colorado system at one point last year, while several regions broke records for wind generation at a given time.

Electric utilities pursue wind energy: Electric utilities signed 60 power purchase agreements totaling more than 8,000 MW during 2013, citing the declining cost of wind power as a driving factor.

Technology innovations drive down costs: The cost of wind energy dropped 43 percent between 2008 and 2012, with the industry continuing to advance technology in several areas, from improved siting techniques to larger rotor diameters and taller towers that are increasing energy production across the country.

Wind impacts across the country: Over 70 percent of U.S. Congressional districts have operational wind energy projects or active wind-related manufacturing facilities.

Wind delivering environmental benefits: Operational wind energy projects, combined with the projects under construction, will avoid 115 million tons of carbon dioxide annually — more than 5 percent of U.S. power sector emissions — while avoiding the consumption of over 36 billion gallons of water each year.

U.S. manufacturing sector growth: Wind energy continues to fuel the domestic manufacturing sector, with over 550 factories producing products for the wind energy industry in 2013 and 72 percent domestic content reached in 2012.

Improving transmission grid: 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, which is double the amount of wind energy capacity that is operating today.

Progress in offshore wind: The U.S. now has 12 offshore wind energy projects totaling 5,000 MW in various stages of development, with several in the advanced stages.

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