AWEA: Record US Wind Power Growth in First-Half 2009

US wind capacity continued its impressive growth in the second quarter while fossil fuel consumption continued to fall. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) just released their second quarter report, and it’s full of surprisingly upbeat news for a sector hard-hit by the recession. The resilience of wind power as a low-cost, carbon-free source of electricity is made clear by the ::continue:: 1.2 GW in new wind capacity added March 1-June 30.

4 GW in First Half of Year a Record

While the second quarter’s growth rate was less than half that of the record first quarter, the two quarters add up to another record — for installed wind capacity in the first half of the year (~4 GW vs. 2.7 GW in H1 2008). And even though we are near the bottom of a deep recession, the second quarter growth of 1.2 GW was equal to Q2 2008. It brings total US wind capacity to a world-leading 29.4 GW.

Major growth occurred in 10 different states across the country. In percentage growth, Missouri led the pack by almost doubling its wind capacity last quarter to over .3 GW (too bad MO Senator Claire McCaskill (D) is slowing the current climate bill that would help the state take further advantage of their wind resources). Pennsylvania and South Dakota also had double digit growth rates at 28% and 21%, respectively. Texas extended its leadership in wind by passing 8 GW, while #2 Iowa passed 3 GW.

My top 10 states list in rough percentage of electricity from wind shifted a little:

  1. Iowa (~19% of its electricity from wind)
  2. North Dakota (just below 18%)
  3. Wyoming (over 15%)
  4. Oregon (over 8%)
  5. South Dakota (almost 8%, up from a tie for #7)
  6. Minnesota (~7.5%, down from #5)
  7. Kansas (~7%, down from #6)
  8. Texas (almost 7%, up from #9)
  9. New Mexico (~6.5%, down from a tie for #7)
  10. Colorado (~6%)

Wind capacity can now generate ~1.9% of US electricity demand. Wind may pass 2% by year’s end, further crowding out dirtier coal, oil, and natural gas consumption.

Fewer Wind Farms Under Construction Though

The difference between 2009 and 2008 is the second half of the year. Last July, there were ~9 GW under construction. But this July, the queue is a lower ~5 GW (even though it’s a vast improvement from the smaller 3.4 GW under construction at the end of Q1). As I wrote last week, wind farm construction is expected to pick up tremendously in 2010 to a new record above 10 GW.

Could 2009 Rival 2008?

The second half of 2009 is expected to witness a significantly slower pace of installation than last year (almost 5 GW) on more difficult financing and reduced US electricity demand. But the lower turbine prices and the federal stimulus support emerging in the months ahead may help 2009 get close to last year’s phenomenal growth. AWEA projects annual growth of 6-7 GW (second highest ever), with growth continuing at the second quarter’s rate over the next two quarters. They are probably right, since wind farms are such huge projects and take months to complete. But I would love to be surprised by another record year. And I will keep you abreast of progress here as it is made in the weeks ahead.

Onwards in the Sustainable Energy Transition-

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I am the Director of the East Coast Greenway Alliance -- a nonprofit dedicated to establishing a safe, accessible 3,000-mile greenway to connect cities from Maine's border with Canada to Key West, Florida.

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