U.S. Wind Power Industry Marks Strong First-Quarter Growth
May 20, 2009
The U.S. wind power industry installed more than 2,800 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity in the first quarter of 2009, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The growth rate is strong compared to the overall growth of 8,358 MW in 2008, which averages out to roughly 2,100 MW per quarter, but the growth is relatively weak compared to the fourth quarter of 2008, when the industry installed a record 4,112 MW of wind capacity. New wind power projects were completed in 15 states, including the 400.3-MW first phase of the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm in Indiana, a project that earned Indiana the distinction as the state with the fastest growth in wind power capacity: a 75% increase in just one quarter. But looking ahead presents a less favorable view for the nation, as projects now under construction will only add another 3,400 MW of wind power capacity. Even if all those projects are completed this year, which is unlikely, the total installed capacity for 2009 would only reach 6,200 MW, a 26% drop from the record pace achieved in 2008. See the AWEA press release and report (PDF 197 KB), and for comparison, see the AWEA press release on the growth in 2008. Download Adobe Reader.
Despite the uncertain outlook, a number of companies are pressing ahead with efforts to build wind turbine manufacturing plants in the United States. In late March, Vestas held a ground-breaking ceremony for two new manufacturing facilities in Brighton, Colorado, that will manufacture wind turbine blades and nacelles (the bus-shaped housings at the top of the towers). Vestas is also building a tower factory in Pueblo, Colorado, and expects to employ 2,500 people in the state by the end of 2010. The company is also establishing a research center in Houston, Texas. In April, NextEra Energy Resources (formerly known as FPL Energy) announced plans to build a wind turbine service facility near Story City, Iowa. And finally, in early May, Siemens announced plans to build a factory for wind turbine nacelles in Hutchinson, Kansas. Construction begins in August for the facility, which will initially employ 400 people. See the press releases from Vestas (PDF 26 KB), NextEra Energy Resources, and Siemens.