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US wind capacity reaches 60GW after strong 2012

31 Jan 2013, 7.09 pm GMT

Washington, 31 January (Argus) — The US wind energy industry installed more than 13,124MW of new capacity in 2012, a 28pc increase from 2011, to reach a cumulative 60,000MW across 39 states and Puerto Rico.

The industry completed 190 projects with a record capacity of 13,124MW last year, leveraging $25bn in private investment, according to the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) 2012 fourth-quarter report released yesterday. The previous record was 10,000MW installed in 2010.

The industry experienced uncertainty and a rush to complete construction before the end of 2012, when the production tax credit (PTC) for wind was due to expire. But Congress voted to extend the credit for a year on 1 January 2013, restoring industry confidence.

The association reported that while new wind contract negotiations continue to take place, “other manufacturers are saying that it may take a little while for the orders to come back, as the industry rebounds.”

The industry installed the majority of 2012 capacity, 8,380MW, during the fourth quarter, bringing the total US installed wind power capacity to 60,007MW. The association estimates that is enough wind power to avoid 95.9mn metric tons/yr of CO2 emissions, equal to 1.8pc of US emissions.

Of the projects that came on line during 2012, 90pc are owned by independent power producers or commercial interests and 10pc by utilities, according to AWEA.

About 75pc of the capacity is contracted under long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs). During 2012, at least 66 utilities, up from 42 in 2011, entered into long-term PPAs or brought their own wind projects on line.

“What is just as striking as the new records is the expansion of new customers,” AWEA interim chief executive officer Rob Gramlich said. “We are also seeing growth in new customers in the industrial and commercial sectors purchasing or owning wind energy directly.”

AWEA estimates, based on actual wind generation to the grid, say that the current 60GW is enough to power the equivalent of almost 15mn homes, “or the number in Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio combined.”

Texas led all states in most installed wind capacity in 2012 with 1,826MW, followed by California with 1,656MW, Kansas at 1,440MW, Oklahoma with 1,127MW and Illinois at 823MW. Texas has the largest total wind power capacity with 12,212MW, followed by California at 5,549MW and Iowa at 5,137MW.

Strong renewable portfolio standards (RPS) have spurred wind projects in upper midwest states, such as Michigan, which with 610MW is on track to reach the 1,000-MW mark within the first few years of its RPS program.

The association estimated that wind energy for the first time became the top source of new US electric generating capacity, providing 42 pc of all new capacity in 2012.

Renewables comprised 55pc of all new US generating capacity for the year, AWEA said.

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