“Wind power projects accounted for 39 percent of all new electric generating capacity added in the U.S. in 2009," noted Ryan Wiser, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, "and wind energy is now able to deliver 2.5 percent of the nation’s electricity supply.” Berkeley Labs and the US Department of Energy released a study last week with more details on the state of wind power in the US.
Investments in wind power are creating good manufacturing jobs in the US. Seven of the top ten wind turbine manufacturers already have manufacturing facilities in the US. Two of the remaining 3 have announced plans to open manufacturing facilities here. And, of course, the actual installation and ongoing management of wind turbines create domestic jobs.
Wind power also creates competitive advantages for manufacturers by lowering electricity rates over the long term. While the up front investment is high (construction of wind farms costs about twice as much per MW as construction of coal-fired power plants), wind and other renewables are less expensive over the long term because they have zero ongoing fuel costs. This advantage will become even more pronounced if, as predicted by many economists, the costs of coal, petroleum and natural gas increase dramatically as the world economy comes out of the Great Recession.
Transmission remains a significant stumbling block. In Texas, 17% of existing wind generating capacity was not used last year because of inadequate transmission. Billions of dollars in investments in smart grid technologies will be required to pave the way for more wind and solar generation. (See DOE Says Grid Needs Upgrade to Handle Wind Power, Jan. 20, 2010).
The US accounted for 26% of all new wind generating capacity in the world last year. That put the US in second place after China, which accounted for 36% of all new wind generation capacity and is the world leader.