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U.S. wind record driven by eleventh-hour construction boom

Posting in Energy

Wind developers scrambling to complete projects ahead of a federal tax credit deadline helped the U.S. install record capacity in 2012.

The U.S. wind industry installed 13.2 gigawatts of new generating capacity last year, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. In December 2012 alone, 5.5 gigawatts were installed, the most capacity added in a single month, said BNEF.

The wind capacity added in 2012 represents more than a 102 percent increase over 2011 when the industry installed 6.5 GW. Wind projects now account for 60 GW of total cumulative capacity across the U.S., which is about 6 percent of the country's overall electricity generating capacity.

A drop in equipment prices, which have fallen by more than 21 percent since 2010, helped fuel the construction boom. But it was the looming deadline of the federal Production Tax Credit that spurred much of the building frenzy.

The PTC was supposed to expire December 31 and only projects that were operational before that date would have qualified for the tax credit. The tax credit did expire. However, Congress retroactively extended it January 1 as part of the fiscal cliff rescue package.

Looking ahead, the economic picture isn't quite so rosy for the wind industry. Developers and investors didn't build up a pipeline of projects for the coming year because of fear the PTC wouldn't be extended, said BNEF.

As a result, the upstream portion of the industry has taken a hit and companies that make turbines, blades and other components of wind equipment are cutting back. Manufacturers including Vestas, Gamesa, Clipper and Siemens have all either initiated or announced layoffs.

Other highlights from the BNEF report:

  • California ranked No. 1 for wind capacity added in 2012, followed by Kansa, Texas, Oklahoma and Oregon
  • Leading wind developers in 2012 were NextEra, Caithness Energy and BP.
  • GE sold the most turbines for 2012 wind projects, followed by Siemens and Vestas.

Photo: Flickr

— By on January 23, 2013, 3:49 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure