Wind Helps Power Our Flagging Economy

Photo by Chris Lim
2008 a Record Year for the Wind Power Industry
Wind power is on a roll: the American Wind Energy Association released its 3rd Quarter Market Report earlier this week, and it showed that the US wind energy industry has installed 4,204 megawatts in 2008 so far. That figure puts the nationwide wind industry on track to surpass the record expansion of last year, in which the installation of wind turbines and farms reached a total 5,249 MW. The report spells out some good news for our struggling economy (which is dire need of some), and makes a firm, encouraging forecast of the future of alternative energy industries in the US.
Wind Power Picks Up Steam
The third quarter gain of 1,389 MW in wind power projects this year is evidence of the increasing momentum of the wind power industry, which is expected to reach a total of 7,500 installed MW by the end of this year. The gains come primarily from the opening of eight new wind turbine manufacturing facilities and the expansion of nine existing ones—not to mention the announcement of 19 more proposed facilities.

Not Just Hot Air: Wind Power and the Economy
In the face of so much economic uncertainty and collapsing markets, the aggressive expansion of the wind energy industry should be welcome news for investors—and further proof that part of our nation’s economic future rests on the alternative energy industries. Even in a severely troubled financial climate, the wind industry is acquiring wide scale investment and creating jobs—few other industries can make that claim at the moment.

Here are some highlights of wind power progress across the nation, as cited in the report from AWEA:

• Texas, reaping the benefits of its excellent wind resource and a proactive transmission expansion policy, added 693 MW - the most wind power capacity of any state in the 3rd quarter. Texas moved into the 6 GW category, which propels it into the ranks of global leaders. Only Germany, India and Spain had more wind energy capacity installed at the end of last year.
• West Virginia: The state with the fastest wind power capacity growth was West Virginia, which more than tripled its existing capacity with the addition of a 164-MW project; another 100-MW project is scheduled to come online in West Virginia by the end of the year.
• Utah added its first multi-turbine project, the 9-turbine Spanish Fork project.
• The Dakotas: Acciona Energy, a wind turbine manufacturer, brought its first U.S. turbines online at a 120-turbine project straddling the North Dakota/South Dakota border.
• In August, Vestas announced plans to further expand its American manufacturing presence with new wind turbine blade and nacelle assembly factories in Brighton, Colo. (the nacelle is the structure that sits at the top of a wind turbine tower. It can be as large as a school bus, and houses the generator). When fully operational in 2010, the blade factory is expected to employ 650 people and the nacelle factory is expected to employ an additional 700.
• In September, TPI Composites opened a new production facility in Newton, Iowa, for wind turbine blades for the U.S. market. At full capacity, TPI Iowa plans to employ 500 associates, giving the Midwestern city an economic boost.

Forecast for 2009 Not as Optimistic
New construction starts are expected to slow in 2009, due to a late extension in a wind production tax credit and the present financial climate in general. AWEA (rightly) views the steps taken by the incoming Congress and Administration as crucial to aiding the future progress of the wind industry—they need to take action to make the tax credit permanent, create a federal renewable energy policy standard, and pass climate change legislation in order to properly stimulate the immediately promising industry.

More on the Wind Power Industry:
Chinese Wind Power Set for Big Expansion
Rooftop Turbines vs. Offshore Wind Farms

Tags: Alternative Energy | Energy | Renewable Energy | Wind Power