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Wind Power: U.S. Wind Installations Keep On Coming

Jul 28, 2009 - Keith Johnson - Wall Street Journal

Mark Twain famously complained that rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated. The same could be said of the U.S. wind-power industry.

Wind turbine, bottom view
A bottom view of a wind turbine www.andreaparaggio.com

Despite plenty of warnings that the credit crunch would kneecap wind power this year, it’s still a fast-growing sector. In the second quarter, the U.S. installed 1,210 megawatts of wind power, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Yes, that’s a big drop from the 2,860 megawatts installed in the first quarter. But it also means that through the first half of the year, the U.S. is ahead of the wind-power pace it set in 2008—an all-time record year.

The AWEA has also upped its estimate of wind-power installations in the pipeline for the rest of the year and 2010, to 5,000 megawatts from 3,400 megawatts. Texas is still leaps and bounds ahead of other states, adding more wind in the second quarter than any other.

Texas now has more than 8,000 megawatts of wind power; all of China has a bit more than 12,000 megawatts. The U.S. now has just over 29,000 megawatts of wind power installed, making it the clear global leader.

Still, the wind-power industry loves to fret. Now, the worry is about a slowdown in manufacturing which could put thousands of “green jobs” at risk—unless Congress offers even more support to the wind industry in the form of tougher renewable-energy standards.

“Manufacturing investment is the canary in the mine, and shows that the future of wind power in this country is very bright but still far from certain,” said AWEA chief executive Denise Bode.

The thing is, even if the U.S. keeps building lots of wind farms, foreign companies still stand to reap the benefits—which could add more grist to the cries that America is falling behind in the clean-energy race.

In the second quarter, foreign wind-turbine manufacturers made the machines used in four of the five biggest wind farms. Only one big wind farm, in California, used General Electric turbines. The others were provided by Gamesa of Spain and Mitsubishi of Japan.