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Blog: 2012 was strong year for wind power

By Jack Keough

The results are in and it is clear that wind power had a remarkably strong year in 2012 despite the uncertainty as to whether a tax credit for the industry would be continued.

The Production Tax Credit (PTC) gives rebates for each kilowatt hour of electricity generated by wind power to help it keep competitive with other, traditional forms of electricity. But in order to qualify, those wind projects had to be constructed before Dec. 31, 2012.

Ultimately, the Obama Administration agreed to extend the credit but it was different than the previous one. In order to now qualify for the credit, new installations of wind power will only have to start construction by the end of the year. That meant many developers will have a longer time frame to begin their projects.

Because of the concern surrounding the PTC, wind farm developers rushed to complete projects in 2012.  Nearly 60 wind farms came online in December, 2012 resulting in more than 5000 megawatts being produced.

For the entire year wind-power installations’ power generation grew by 13,131 megawatts, the highest ever, according to the American Wind Energy Assn. (AWEA) In fact, more wind capacity was installed in 2012 than any other single power source, including coal, gas and solar.

That was good news for electrical contractors and distributors who service this alternative energy source.

In all, wind energy grew 28 percent in America last year setting a new installation record and confirming its status as a mainstream energy source, according to the AWEA’s U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report for 2012, which was just released.

The report points out that more than 6,700 new wind turbines were erected, producing enough electricity to power the equivalent of 3.5 million homes. Overall, America finished the year with 45,100 wind turbines that can power 15.2 million homes.

Texas led the country in new installations, and it has, by far, the most installed capacity, with 1,826 megawatts that went online last year for a statewide total of 12,214 megawatts. Another 21,000 megawatts of wind power are being proposed. 

Wind farms generated at least 10 percent of the electricity produced in nine states in 2012, up from five states the year before. Iowa and South Dakota got nearly a quarter of their electricity from wind. Oregon’s 845-megawatt Shepherd’s Flat wind farm, commissioned in 2012, is North America’s largest,

Five companies are interested in developing wind farms in the ocean off North Carolina, hoping to take advantage of what could be the East Coast’s most promising chance to create energy through giant turbines anchored to the sea floor, according to a report by the McClatchy Newspaper group. . Two potential development areas are between Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Wilmington, N.C., while another is beyond the Outer Banks, across from the island towns of Kitty Hawk, Nags Head and Manteo. All potential areas are at least six miles from shore.

Despite all that positive news, the wind industry’s best scenario is that the industry will only see a slight increase this year, according to the Wind Technologies Market Report, published by the Department of Energy. The study says that wind power installation will be smaller than last year and the country may not see another large increase until 2014 or 2015.

But there are still many projects that are being built. Two of those were announced in the past week. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has awarded a contract to Siemens Government Technologies, Inc. (Siemens) to construct the federal government’s largest wind farm. The Pantex wind farm is expected to save an average of $2.9 million annually over the 20-year contract term. The installation will consist of five 2.3 megawatt turbines located on 1,500 acres of government-owned property near Amarillo.

The wind farm is expected to generate roughly 47 million kilowatt hours of clean energy annually enough electricity to power nearly 3,500 homes,

In addition, MidAmerican Energy Co. has proposed adding up to 1,050 megawatts (MW) of wind generation, consisting of up to 656 new wind turbines, in Iowa by the end of 2015.

If the expansion is approved by the Iowa Utilities Board, MidAmerican Energy will own and operate approximately 3,335 MW of wind generation capacity in Iowa by the end of 2015. Currently, MidAmerican Energy owns and operates approximately 2,285 MW of wind generation capacity in the Hawkeye State and ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for ownership of wind generation capacity among rate-regulated utilities.

Jack Keough was the editor of Industrial Distribution magazine for more than 26 years. He often speaks at many industry events and seminars. He can be reached at john.keough@comcast.net or keoughbiz@gmail.com

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