The US wind energy sector had its best quarter since 2009, installing 908 utility-scale wind turbines totaling 2,000 megawatts of new capacity.
New figures published Tuesday by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) highlight the strongest quarter for the US wind energy sector in eight years, installing 908 utility-scale wind turbines totaling 2,000 megawatts (MW). New capacity spanned the whole country, from Rhode Island and North Carolina to Oregon and Hawaii. Unsurprisingly, Texas led the way with 724 MW of new capacity, followed by Kansas with 481 MW, which is a great quarter for the Great Plains.
“We switched on more megawatts in the first quarter than in the first three quarters of last year combined,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, in releasing the U.S.Wind Industry First Quarter 2017 Market Report. “Each new modern wind turbine supports 44 years of full-time employment over its lifespan, so the turbines we installed in just these three months represent nearly 40,000 job years for American workers.”
According to the AWEA, the strong start to the year “reflects how 500 factories in America’s wind power supply chain and over 100,000 wind workers are putting stable, multi-year federal policy to work.” They also pointed to research published by Navigant Research earlier this year which showed that the US wind energy industry will drive more than $85 billion in economic activity between 2017 and 2020, and install 35 gigawatts (GW) of new wind capacity. One of the key drivers for the development of the US wind industry at the moment is the Production Tax Credit, which was signed for a multi-year extension in late 2015.
The first quarter also boasts 1,781 MW of new long-term contracts for wind, the most in a first quarter since 2013. The growing number of Fortune 500 companies and utilities which are looking to the wind industry for new capacity continues to grow.
Interestingly, the figures published by the AWEA this week differ slightly from figures published simultaneously by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) in its latest Energy Infrastructure Update for March. According to FERC, wind energy installed only 1,479 megawatts for the first quarter. Where the difference lies, I’m unsure.
Overall, according to figures also published this week by the US Energy Information Administration, wind energy accounted for 8% of the operating electric generating capacity in the United States during 2016, more than any other renewable energy technology. In fact, wind turbines have contributed more than a third of the nearly 200 GW of new utility-scale electricity generating capacity added since 2007.