Skip to main content

U.S. Leads World in Wind Power Production

August 14, 2008

The United States now leads the world in the amount of electricity it generates from wind energy, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The trade group's second-quarter market report, released on August 5, finds that the wind industry installed a total of 1,194 megawatts (MW) in the second quarter, bringing the total installed U.S. wind capacity to 19,549 MW. While that still lags behind the roughly 23,000 MW installed in Germany, the stronger winds in the United States are yielding greater power production despite the smaller generating capacity. According to AWEA, U.S. wind power capacity is on track to increase by more than 45% this year, but the upcoming expiration of the federal production tax credit at the end of this year is threatening to slow this progress. The trade group also notes that over the past year and a half, at least 41 manufacturing facilities to support the wind industry have been announced, opened, or expanded in the United States, and those new and expanded facilities will create more than 9,000 jobs when they reach their full capacity. See the press release and the full quarterly report (PDF 234 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

Despite the looming loss of tax credits, wind power developers have unveiled a number of large, ambitious wind projects in recent weeks. The leader is definitely a 5,050-MW wind project in South Dakota, which is being pursued by Clipper Windpower Plc and BP Alternative Energy under a joint venture agreement. Previously dubbed "Rolling Thunder," and now called the Titan wind project, the project will be developed in multiple phases using Clipper's 2.5-MW wind turbine. If completed as currently planned, it will be the world's largest wind power plant. Meanwhile, the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council has approved a 909-MW wind facility that may hold the title of world's largest wind project for at least a short while. The Shepherds Flat Wind Farm is being developed by Caithness Shepherds Flat, LLC, and will be located in north-central Oregon, just south of the Columbia River in Gilliam County. According to DOE's Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), construction of the facility is slated to begin next summer, with full operation starting in 2010. BPA is building an addition to an existing substation to accommodate the new wind plant. See the press releases from Clipper Windpower and the Oregon Department of Energy, and see the Shepherds Flat Wind Interconnection page on the BPA Transmission Web site.

While large utility-scale wind turbines capture most of the attention in the United States, small wind turbines designed for homes and businesses are also growing in popularity. According to a report released by AWEA in mid-July, the U.S. small wind turbine market grew by 14% in 2007, adding 9.7 MW of new wind power capacity. Defined as wind turbines with capacities of 100 kilowatts or less, and including turbines smaller than 1 kilowatt in capacity, the small wind power market currently lacks federal incentives, although some states offer incentives. Despite that handicap, more than 9,000 small wind turbines worth more than $42 million were installed in the United States in 2007, increasing the nation's total generating capacity from small wind turbines to roughly 60 MW. About 50 companies either manufacture or plan to manufacture small wind turbines in the United States. See the AWEA press release and the Small Wind Market Report (PDF 381 KB).



—Kathleen O'Dell