Wind power makes record gains in 2009

Guest post by Tom Kenworthy, Senior Fellow, American Progress.

While Congress moved in fits and starts in 2009 on bipartisan legislation to spur the deployment of renewable energy and reduce global warming pollution, the U.S. wind energy industry powered ahead at a record pace.

Issuing its end-of-year report, the American Wind Energy Association said the industry installed nearly 10,000 megawatts of new capacity during the year, growing at an annual rate of 39%. The U.S. now has a total of 35,000 megawatts of wind energy installed, enough to light and power 9.7 million homes and the equivalent of removing 62 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year and taking 10.5 million cars off the road.

Though the industry avoided a predicted 50% decline in domestic wind turbine manufacturing because of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus and the Obama administration’s commitment to clean energy job creation, AWEA CEO Denise Bode said a stronger federal policy on renewable energy is needed to keep manufacturing robust.


“We need to set hard targets, in the form of a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) in order to provide the necessary stability for manufacturers to expand their U.S. operations and to seize the historic opportunity we have today to build up a thriving renewable energy industry,” Bode said.

Overall, investment in the wind manufacturing sector declined in 2009 compared to the prior year and the industry saw a net loss of jobs.

The report of strong growth in wind power comes on the heels of a recent report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory showing that achieving 20% wind power for the eastern half of the country by 2024 is technically achievable as long as significant upgrades to the region’s electrical grid are made.

Texas led all states in new wind energy capacity installed in 2009 with 2,292 megawatts. Despite a conservative political establishment, Texas is by far the leading wind state, with a total capacity of 9,410 megawatts, close to its legislated requirement of 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy by the year 2025.

In what should serve as a reminder to Congress to adopt a national renewable energy standard, nine of the top ten states for installed wind power have adopted state RES laws that require a set percentage of their electrical power to come from wind, solar and other renewable sources. The tenth, North Dakota, has a non-binding renewable energy goal.

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