Wind Energy in the United States

In 2010, US wind energy growth slowed to 15% from 2009, compared to 40% from 2008 to 2009. Only 5,115 MW capacity was installed, compared to 10,010 MW in 2009, 8,366 MW in 2008 and 5,258 MW in 2007. Difficulties in securing power purchase agreements (PPAs), regulatory uncertainty and the expiration of treasury grants were all cited as reasons for slowed growth. Average power purchase agreements for electricity generated from wind ranged from USD cents 5 to 6 per kWh (EUR cents 3.7 to 4.4 per kWh).

At the end of 2010, wind supplied 2% of America’s power needs. This was expected to rise in 2011. Of the 5,115 MW of wind capacity installed in 2010, a total of 3,195 MW was installed in the last quarter of the year, indicating confidence in incentives and the sector as a whole. The extension of two tax credits has been attributed to this renewed confidence. Furthermore, the goal to source 80% of US electricity needs from clean sources by 2030 announced by Obama in his address in 2011 will promote growth in the sector.

As in other countries, variability (the changing speed of wind) is a factor in the penetration of wind in the market. However, all entities concerned with the wind industry, NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), DoE (Department of Energy) and the AWEA (American Wind Energy Association) are realistic in addressing the issue.

Some 20 states had more than 50 MW of wind capacity at the end of 2006. This increased to 25 states by 2008 and 29 by the end of the first quarter of 2011. In 2006, 16 of these states achieved more than 100 MW and in 2009 25 states had done so. The majority of states (29) had more than 50 MW installed at the end of the first quarter of 2011 and 38 states had utility scale projects.

In 2010, most capacity was installed in Texas (680 MW) followed by Illinois (498 MW) and California (455 MW). Only 1,219 MW was installed in 2011, including a 101 MW wind farm that was commissioned at the end of 2010 but filed under Q1 2011 figures. Most capacity under construction is located in Montana (293 MW), Washington (252 MW) and Illinois (239 MW). A further 5,600 MW was under construction.