Washington, D.C., Nov. 7, 2005 — The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) stated in its third quarter market report that the U.S. wind energy industry will install about 2,500 megawatts (MW) of new wind power this year, a record amount that will help lower skyrocketing home heating and electric bills by reducing the demand for natural gas.
According to AWEA’s assessment of the wind energy market, the building boom that is underway could bring the cumulative total of U.S. installed wind capacity to over 9,200 MW, serving the equivalent of 2.4 million U.S. homes. One megawatt of new wind energy is enough electricity to power 270-300 homes.
“Wind power’s rapid growth provides what is potentially the quickest and best supply-side option to ease the natural gas shortage,” said AWEA executive director Randall Swisher.
The growth in wind power construction comes at a time when customers across the country are facing electricity and natural gas rate hikes due to the natural gas supply shortage, with 2005-2006 winter gas prices projected at $10-13/thousand cubic foot (mcf), compared to last year’s average prices of $5-7/mcf. Wind power, which generates energy without using fuel, provides a hedge against rising energy costs because wind energy production is immune from fuel price spikes.
Because prices of natural gas at the margin are volatile and sensitive to supply and demand pressures, each unit of natural gas conserved by wind energy helps shave down costs even further in times of crunch.
AWEA estimates that an installed capacity of 9,200 MW of wind power will save over half a billion cubic feet of natural gas per day (Bcf/day) in 2006, alleviating a portion of the supply pressure that is now facing the natural gas industry and is driving prices upward. The U.S. currently burns about 13 Bcf/day for electricity generation, which means that by the end of the year wind power will be reducing natural gas use for power generation by 4-5 percent.
Another benefit of wind power plants is that they can be permitted and built quickly, within one to two years, whereas the drilling of new natural gas fields and the construction of liquefied natural gas terminals takes longer. AWEA projects that over 14,000 MW of wind capacity could be part of the nation’s generation supply by the end of 2007, producing the equivalent of .85 Bcf/day of natural gas.
The power created from new wind plants is clean and does not contribute to the nation’s environmental problems. Burning fossil fuels for electricity generation causes over a third of the greenhouse gas emissions in the country, as well as more than two-thirds of the emissions that cause acid rain, and one-third of the emissions that cause smog. Generating electricity from the wind creates no harmful emissions. The AWEA says the wind power that is being added in 2005 alone will offset the emission of approximately 7 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, equivalent to keeping nearly 500,000 SUVs off the road.