WIND:

Industry reports record year, pleads for renewable-power standard

Six states used turbines to generate more than 5 percent of their electricity last year, as wind power weathered a second year of recession to post new records of generation, the industry's trade group reported today.

Iowa led the pack for wind's share in the market, producing 14.2 percent of its electric power from wind last year. It ranked second to Texas in the amount of wind generation capacity, as the Lone Star State exceeded 9,000 megawatts at the end of last year.

More than 10,000 megawatts of new generating capacity was built nationwide last year, and wind power produced almost 2 percent of all U.S. electricity, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said.

"Jobs, business opportunities, clean air, energy security -- wind power is delivering today on all those fronts for Americans," said Denise Bode, the group's CEO. "Our annual report documents an industry hard at work and on the verge of explosive growth if the right policies -- including a national renewable electricity standard -- are put in place."

AWEA's annual market report reflects a patchwork of wind development, which remains concentrated in the Great Plains and Pacific Coast states, with smaller clusters along the Great Lakes. The Southeast, in the Appalachians' shadow, where onshore wind resources are weakest, comes up empty on AWEA's maps of new project starts.

The report acknowledges constraints on wind development caused by shortages of transmission capacity to link wind centers with urban areas. AWEA said that nearly 300,000 megawatts of proposed wind projects are in line for connections to the grid.

Several studies and reviews on how to expand transmission to handle more renewable power are under way around the country, but Congress has not been able to agree on new policies for siting power lines or apportioning their costs.

Wind power growth is also being squeezed by low prices for natural gas-fired electricity and by the absence of a national renewable energy standard, AWEA says. In a conference call with reporters, Don Furman, the president of AWEA's board, described such a standard as the linchpin of an international "policy race" that will determine the sector's fate.

"The wind industry was essentially invented in the U.S., and today, most of the manufacturing is moving offshore," Furman said. "To remain competitive, we're going to have to have those policies."

This year, the electricity produced by U.S. wind generators, supplanting power from gas- and coal-fired plants, will cut national carbon dioxide emissions by 62 million metric tons, equivalent to taking 10.5 million cars off the road, AWEA said.

The small-wind market, for turbines rated at 100 kilowatts or less and generally designed to power individual businesses or homes, grew 15 percent in 2009, the association reported. That was down slightly from the previous year's expansion.

The association stressed the small but growing contribution that wind power installations are making to U.S. jobs and manufacturing output. It said that the wind industry "supported" 85,000 jobs last year. It counted nine U.S. turbine manufacturers and more than 200 facilities, including parts suppliers, that serve the industry.

GE Energy continues to be the U.S. industry's largest supplier, followed by Denmark's Vestas, Germany's Siemens, and Mitsubishi of Japan.