U.S. wind industry to break installation records says AWEA

Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 2006 — 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.

Wind energy projects also bring new jobs, rural economic development, and tax revenues to cash-strapped states without creating any of the harmful side-effects associated with conventional power generation, says the AWEA.

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 average U.S homes. One megawatt of new wind energy is enough electricity to power 270-300 homes.

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, according to the AWEA.

Every unit of electricity that is produced by a wind farm is one for which the country does not have to burn natural gas or other resources. And because prices 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%, says the AWEA.

Another benefit of wind power plants is that they can be permitted and built quickly (1-2 years), whereas the drilling of new natural gas fields and the construction of LNG 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.

In addition, 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.

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