U.S. wind power capacity grew 15 percent in 2010, reaching 2 percent of all the electricity generated in the nation, the American Wind Energy Association said.
Developers added turbines with a capacity to generate 5.1 gigawatts, putting total output at 40.1 gigawatts, according to an annual market report released by the lobby group in New York today. Fossil fuels generated about two-thirds of all power.
Wind energy accounted for 26 percent of all installed generation capacity last year, down from 40 percent in 2009. Natural gas, whose price has fallen 40 percent in the past five years, had the largest single increase and took 40 percent of new capacity. Coal-fired plants added 25 percent of new capacity.
The portion of wind since 2007 added 35 percent of all new generating capacity, “twice what coal and nuclear added combined,” said AWEA Chief Executive Officer Denise Bode. “The American wind industry is delivering, while competing with energy sectors that have permanent government subsidies.”
The majority of installations took place in the fourth quarter, probably because of seasonal factors and the anticipated expiration of the so-called 1603 Treasury grant program. That provided a cash grant in-lieu of the 30 percent investment tax credit, which was extended in December until the end of 2011.
The U.S. wind market started 2011 with 5.6 gigawatts of new wind projects under construction, more than twice the amount under way at the start of 2010, the association said. It credited the surge to the extension of the grant program.
NextEra Energy Resources, a unit of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy Inc., was the largest owner of wind power capacity, with more than 8 gigawatts, or about a fifth of all wind power in the U.S.
Iberdrola Renewables, the U.S. arm of Madrid-based Iberdrola SA’s renewable energy unit Iberdrola Renovables SA, added slightly more than 1 gigawatt of new capacity to become the largest owner of new capacity last year.
Texas led new installations, passing 10 gigawatts of cumulatively capacity. Iowa got 15 percent of its electricity from wind, the highest percentage in the U.S. The industry brought 14 new manufacturing facilities online, the same as in 2009, the report said.
For 2011, new construction is expected to bounce back to 6.5 gigawatts to 7.5 gigawatts of new installations, and growing 7 gigawatts to 8 gigawatts each year in 2012 and 2013, according to a forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
States in the U.S. Southeast, where wind development has been almost non-existent according to AWEA, is expected to pick up. “Our wind resources in the Southeast, in many cases, are better than in Europe,” Bode said today at a roundtable lunch at AWEA’s Wind Power Finance & Investment Workshop in New York.
Technology will allow wind farms to capture more power in regions like the Southeast which have less wind energy resources than the rest of the country, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
“If you go onto higher towers and bigger rotors, you can catch as much if not more energy in these places” than in other places with older technology, said Dirk Matthys, CEO for North American of Zamudio, Spain-based wind turbine maker Gamesa Corp Tecnologica SA.
Editors: Will Wade, Reed Landberg