Summary of the US Wind Energy Industry

A rash of recently released reports highlight the rapid growth in the US wind industry. In 2009, “the U.S. wind industry broke all previous records by installing close to 10,000 megawatts of new generating capacity”. This new juice can serve close to 3 million households. It brings our total U.S. wind generating capacity to more than 35,000 megawatts and serving close to 10 million households.

In terms of jobs, “in 2009, 38 manufacturing facilities were brought online, announced or expanded.” This translates into around 80,000 workers (up from 50,000 in 2007). The components built in the U.S. “rose from about 30% in 2005 to nearly 50% by the end of 2008”.

The growth of this industry has been incredible where “wind power capacity has grown by an average of 32% each year for the last five years – 2004-2008”.  That will definitely be needed since the consensus seems to focus on the year 2030. In that year industry experts expect or hope that wind power will provide 20% of U.S. energy (appears to be just up to 2% in 2009).

If we can meet the 20% by 2030 goal and do it with domestic manufacturing it could prove to be a major industry creating 500,000 jobs. It could prove to be a major expert commodity, since we are already the leaders in wind power (Germany is second).

Interesting Facts:

  • Wind produces no toxic waste.
  • Wind has one of the highest energy payback ratios of any power technology (amount of energy produced compared to energy required to build, run, and eventually decommission).
  • Wind turbines are going large – state-of-the-art in 2015 will be the size of Seattle’s Space Needle and produce 5 megawatts, making the cost competitive with dirty energy, $0.04/kWh.
  • Wind turbines are also going small – focusing on providing energy for urban areas.
  • A single wind turbine can provide $2,000-$4,000/year or more in farm income, using only 2-5% of the land, allowing them to plant up to the turbine base.
  • Wind provides around 1 job (skilled Operations & Maintenance) for every 10 turbines installed.
  • U.S. winds could generate more electricity in 15 years than all of Saudi Arabia’s oil
  • As compared to conventional energy generation, wind saves water, displaces carbon dioxide, avoids air pollutants, and could avoid 30 millions tons of coal or 91 million barrels.
  • Pre-construction site surveys reduce threats to birds, wildlife, and the industry is funding proactive studies to learn how to avoid damage to bats, prairie and grassland birds.
  • Texas generates the most wind energy (9,410 megawatts), followed by Iowa (3,670), California (2,794), Washington (1,980), and Minnesota (1,809).
  • 15 states have no wind energy installations: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, & Virginia.

Graph of wind power from 1981-2007, showing the incredible growth in the past few years:



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