Washington, DC [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] By installing nearly 2,500 MW or more than $3 billion worth of new generating equipment in 22 states in 2005, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the U.S. wind energy industry broke all previous annual installed capacity records. And 2006 is expected to be even bigger, with installations topping 3,000 MW.The final tally of 2,431 MW boosted the cumulative U.S. installed wind power fleet by more than 35%, bringing the industry’s total generating capacity to 9,149 MW. There are now commercial wind turbine installations in 30 states. The figure was just shy of an expected 2,500 MW due to projects delayed by weather. Wind energy facilities now installed in the U.S., AWEA said, will produce as much electricity annually as 2.3 million average American households use, and will displace emissions of more than 15 million tons of carbon dioxide (the leading greenhouse gas) annually. “Thanks to Congress’s extending the wind energy production credit before it expired for the first time in the credit’s history, the wind industry is looking forward to several record-breaking years in a row,” said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. “Companies can now plan for growth, create jobs, and provide more clean power to customers nationwide. We are finally beginning to tap into wind energy’s enormous potential.” 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 peaking as high as $15/thousand cubic foot (mcf). Monthly average prices range from $6-13/mcf, compared to last year’s monthly 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. AWEA estimates that an installed capacity of 9,149 MW of wind power will save more than 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 during 2006, wind power will be reducing natural gas use for power generation by approximately 5%. Other highlights include: — California is still the state with the most wind power installed, with 2,150 MW, but Texas is gaining fast with 1,995 MW installed and more proposed for 2006. Iowa remains in third place with 836 MW installed. Minnesota is in fourth with 744 MW, and Oklahoma moves into fifth place with 475 MW. — GE Energy turbines accounted for nearly 60% of the new capacity in 2005. Vestas turbines accounted for nearly 30%. Mitsubishi was the third largest wind turbine supplier to the U.S. market, supplying about 8% of the new capacity. Suzlon and Gamesa round out the top five. — FPL Energy was the project developer responsible for adding the most new wind power capacity, with more than 500 MW of new capacity added to its fleet. PPM Energy was in second place, adding 394 MW. Horizon Wind Energy added 220 MW; Invenergy added 200 MW; and enXco added 150 MW. — The wind farms completed in 2005, AWEA said, will generate approximately $5 million in payments to landowners annually and create skilled, long-term jobs in areas where such employment is scarce, as well as short-term construction jobs and associated economic activity. A state-by-state listing of existing and proposed wind energy projects is available on AWEA’s website, plus the full list of projects installed in 2005 and a graph showing installed capacity from 1981 to 2005. AWEA, whose membership ranges from turbine manufacturers, wind project developers, and utilities to academicians and interested individuals, formed in 1974 as the national trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry.