The state of wind power in the U.S. is rapidly rising, with the total electrical generating capacity in the country reaching a historic milestone of 50 gigawatts - the equivalent of the output of 11 nuclear power plants.
In a political climate where our federal policies affecting wind power generation are on the rocks (the Production Tax Credit (PTC) - a federal tax break of 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour - is set to expire, and the battle over renewing or dropping it is growing heated), reaching this power production level in 2012 demonstrates some of the meteoric rise of American wind power. Some wind generation at utility-scale began in the early '80s, and it took about 23 years to hit 5 GW of generating capacity. In 2006, capacity doubled to 10 GW, then hit 25 GW in 2008, and has since doubled that figure in the last four years.
The 50 GW of wind power capacity online, across 39 states in the U.S., is said to be the energy equivalent of powering 13 million homes, and equals the power of 44 coal plants:
"These truly are the best of times and could be the worst of times for American wind power. This month we shattered the 50-gigawatt mark, and we’re on pace for one of our best years ever in terms of megawatts installed." - Denise Bode, CEO of American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)
According to the AWEA, though, times could still be rocky ahead for the wind industry, due to the uncertainty about whether or not the extension of the PTC will go through, and as a result, incoming orders to the wind industry’s manufacturing supply chain have slowed down considerably.