U.S. Wind Industry to Grow More Than 25 Percent

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported that the U.S. wind energy industry is on track to install 1,100-1,400 MW of new capacity this year, despite the power generation industry’s generally poor outlook. The growth that is underway across the country is expected to boost U.S. installed wind power capacity from current levels of close to 4,700 MW to approximately 6,000 MW (enough to serve 1.5 million homes).

Washington, D.C. – May 12, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] Highlights of the year’s wind energy development, according to AWEA, include: Two large wind power projects are planned to provide power to the West. In New Mexico, FPL Energy is currently constructing the world’s third largest wind farm, with 136 turbines for 204 MW of new capacity. PNM, the utility that has contracted to purchase the output from the New Mexico Wind Energy Center, estimates that up to 150 jobs will be created during the six- to nine-month construction period, and 12 permanent jobs will be created to maintain the facility. Combining the economic effect of the jobs created, the property taxes paid to the local area boosted, and the lease payments to farmers for the use of their land, PNM estimates that the economic benefit for the area will be more than US$40 million over 25 years. In California, FPL Energy is installing 81 1.8-MW Vestas turbines in Solano County, Calif., for the High Winds project. PPM Energy has contracted to purchase the entire output of that project. Oklahoma looks likely to get its first utility-scale project in 2003. Two projects are planned for the state. The Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority will purchase the output from a 51 MW project FPL Energy is developing, and the Western Farmers’ Electric Coop will purchase the output from a 62.7 MW project being developed by Zilkha Renewable Energy and Kirmart Corp. If the projects are successfully completed, 28 states will boast a utility-scale wind power project. In another interesting development, the Rosebud Sioux tribe in South Dakota recently started up a 750-kW NEG Micon wind turbine, which is expected to produce more than 2 million kWh per year of clean electricity, enough to serve about 80 percent of the annual power needs of the Rosebud Casino and motel. The tribe has long-term plans for a larger wind project on the reservation to take full advantage of the strong winds in the upper Midwest. Developers report that they are working to complete projects by the end of the year in order to qualify for the federal wind energy production tax credit that is currently set to expire December 31. Although AWEA previously expected that 2003 would be a record year, problems in the larger electric power industry seem to be slowing project development. One of the biggest problems in getting new projects built is difficulty in arranging financing. “For the past decade, the wind industry has been on a roller-coaster caused by the two-year cycle of the Production Tax Credit,” said Randall Swisher, AWEA’s Executive Director. “In 2002, the U.S. wind industry installed 410 MW. The year before that, we saw a record 1,700 MW of new wind power installed. With this instability, the industry does not attract the kind of investors we need to sustain long-term growth.” Developers are also reporting that utility financial difficulties and oversupply in the power sector mean that utilities are not in the market for new projects. Many of these issues will be addressing in depth at AWEA’s annual conference, WINDPOWER 2003, that brings together industry leaders from May 19-21 to discuss the expansion of wind energy in the United States and address the entrepreneurs and advocates who have helped wind become the fastest growing energy source in the world. This year, WINDPOWER is on track to be the largest U.S. wind power conference ever held, demonstrating the continued strong interest in the wind industry.
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