America’s wind industry built 5,115 MW of wind power in 2010, barely half 2009’s record pace. The sector entered 2011 with over 5,600 MW under construction.

“Our industry continues to endure a boom-bust cycle because of the lack of long-term, predictable federal policies,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, which announced the 2010 results.

 AWEA reported that 3,195 MW of wind-powered electric generating capacity came online in the fourth quarter of 2010. That was below the 4,113 MW installed in the same period in 2009. It was up from the third quarter of 2010, when 670 MW were installed. 

Buoyed by a one-year extension of the 1603 Investment Tax Credit for renewable energy in the final days of the 111th Congress, the industry entered 2011 with over 5,600 MW of electric power under construction. AWEA said that amount was “well above” the same time a year earlier. Other projects are expected to start up in time to meet the new construction deadline for the tax credit, now set to expire at the end of 2011. The industry is likely to finish 2011 ahead of 2010 numbers, according to Elizabeth Salerno, AWEA Director of Industry Data & Analysis.

“Wind’s costs have dropped over the past two years, with power purchase agreements being signed in the range of 5 to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour recently.” Salerno said. 

Total U.S. wind capacity now stands at 40,180 MW, an increase in capacity of 15 percent over the start of 2010, AWEA said. For the first time, U.S. capacity fell second to China’s; China now has 41,800 MW in operation, an increase of 62 percent in capacity over a year ago, according to a Jan. 13 report from the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.

The top five states for cumulative wind energy capacity at the close of 2010 all have state targets: Texas 10,085 MW; Iowa 3,675 MW; California 3,177 MW; Minnesota 2,192 MW; and Washington 2,105 MW.

Texas passed the 10,000 MW mark for total installations, a quarter of all wind capacity in the U.S., with the addition of 680 MW in 2010. On average, AWEA said wind now generates 7.8 percent of the electricity in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) which covers most of the state, peaking as high as 25 percent.

Other states active in pursuing targets for renewable energy last year were Illinois (498 MW added), California (455 MW), South Dakota (396) and Minnesota (396 MW).

AWEA said 38 states now have utility-scale wind projects, and 14 of those have now installed more than 1,000 MW of wind power.

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