U.S. Wind Power Generation Hits New High
U.S. wind energy installations now exceed 10,000 megawatts in generating capacity, and produce enough electricity on a typical day to power the equivalent of over 2.5 million homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association, AWEA. A megawatt of wind power generates enough to serve 250 to 300 average homes.
“Wind energy is providing new electricity supplies that work for our country’s economy, environment, and energy security,” said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. “With its current performance, wind energy is demonstrating that it could rapidly become an important part of the nation’s power portfolio.”
The record growth in wind power is driven by demand for the popular energy source and concerns over fuel price volatility and supply. It was also made possible by a timely renewal of the production tax credit, a federal incentive extended in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Previously, the credit had been allowed to expire three times in seven years, and this uncertainty discouraged investment in wind turbine manufacturing in the country.
AWEA is calling for a long-term extension of the tax credit before its scheduled expiration at the end of 2007 to avoid further “on-again-off-again” cycles and encourage long term investment.
Today, the industry is installing more wind power in a single year – 3,000 megawatts expected in 2006 – than the amount operating in the entire country in the year 2000, when just 2,500 megawatts were generated.
Wind was the second-largest source of new power generation in the country in 2005 after natural gas, and is likely be so again in 2006, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Wind turbine manufacturing companies have recently opened facilities in Iowa (Clipper Windpower), Minnesota (Suzlon), and Pennsylvania (Gamesa), and wind turbine orders are creating jobs all the way down the supply chain, sometimes in areas that do not have a large wind resource, such as Louisiana.
The AWEA points out the environmental benefits of wind power, saying, “Today’s 10,000 MW of wind power are keeping 16 million tons of carbon dioxide, CO2, the most prevalent greenhouse gas associated with global warming, out of the air every year.
If the same amount of electricity as that generated by America’s 10,000-MW wind turbine fleet were instead produced using the average utility fuel mix, it would emit 73,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 27,000 tons of nitrogen oxide per year, as well as other pollutants such as mercury, the AWEA says.
Today’s 10,000 MW of wind power saves about 0.6 billion cubic feet or natural gas per day, or about 3.5 percent of the natural gas used nationwide to generate electricity.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.