U.S. wind power grew by 45 percent in 2007, blowing away past annual growth marks, industry group American Wind Energy Association said Thursday.
Utilities seeking green alternatives, some in states requiring more renewable power, helped wind power account for $9 billion invested and 30 percent of all new U.S. power generation in 2007, the AWEA said in its annual year-end report.
In 2006, wind power grew by 20 percent. when about $4 billion was spent in the industry.
The AWEA said this year's new wind power installation will be about the same as in 2007. Growing fast has its pains, and one is that growth in 2008 will be limited by a shortage of wind turbines. The AWEA said wind turbines are sold out for the year, a condition it says will ease as more manufacturers enter the burgeoning market.
The 5,244 megawatts of new wind turbines installed in 2007 can power about 1.5 million U.S. homes. Installed U.S. wind power capacity by the end of 2007 was 16,818 megawatts.
For the first time, wind power accounts for more than 1 percent of overall U.S. electricity production and can power about 4.5 million homes, the AWEA said.
Texas lengthened its lead over California among states with the most installed wind power, followed by Minnesota, Iowa and Washington. Texas now has 4,356 MW of installed wind power, or more than a quarter of the U.S. total. California has 2,439 MW, or almost 15 percent.
FPL Energy remained the leading wind developer with 956 megawatts installed, and GE Energy, a unit of General Electric , continued to dominate wind turbine sales, accounting for 45 percent of new installed capacity, the AWEA said. (CNBC and CNBC.com also are units of GE.)
The AWEA said the shortage of wind turbines is not as great a limiting factor as is uncertainty over long-term production tax credits to help the industry compete with coal and natural gas power plants which can make electricity more cheaply.
In 2004, the last year when there when the production tax credit lapsed, there was a 77 percent drop in new wind installations. The AWEA said wind power year-on-year growth increased in six the last nine years, and in each of those six years the production tax credit was secure. The three years when growth did not increase were years when the tax credit lapsed, the AWEA said.
Wind power is more expensive to build, install and bring to market than more conventional coal-fired and natural gas-fired power plants, and wind power needs help from the federal government in order to compete, the AWEA said as it reported record growth.
"This remarkable and accelerating growth is driven by strong demand, favorable economics, and a period of welcome relief from the on-again, off-again, boom-and-bust, cycle of the federal production tax credit for wind power," said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher.
Investors shy away from committing to projects without the guarantee of tax incentives.
"The production tax credit and tax incentives for other renewable energy sources are now in danger of lapsing at the end of this year -- and at the worst moment for the U.S economy," Swisher said.