US now world leader in wind power production

Environmental Finance, 7 August 2008 - US wind capacity is expected to increase 45% in 2008 although Congress' failure to extend the production tax credit (PTC) for the renewable energy industry threatens to derail further development, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

Total US installed wind power capacity now stands at 19,549MW, up 2,726MW from the end of 2007, making the US the world leader in wind electricity generation, according to the AWEA's second quarter 2008 market report. Germany has installed generating capacity of about 23,000MW, but the US produces more electricity because of stronger winds, the AWEA said.

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The AWEA projects 7,500MW of new capacity will come online in 2008, a 45% increase over 2007. “The increased cost of fuel, particularly natural gas, has had an amazing impact on the industry”, said AWEA executive director Randall Swisher.

The rapid growth of the wind energy industry, however, is being threatened by the inability of Congress to pass legislation to extend the PTC for renewable energy projects, he said. The PTC is set to expire at the end of 2008, and many projects are being rushed to completion by the end of this year, Swisher said.

Investment in new wind energy projects beyond 2008 has stalled due to the failure to extend the credits, Swisher said. “If there is a great deal of uncertainty in the market and in policies in the market, that investment capacity will be deployed elsewhere”, he said. “It's just ludicrous that the Congress is letting this opportunity slip away.”

The AWEA also reported a strong increase in domestic investment in wind turbine and wind turbine component manufacturing facilities over the past 18 months with at least 41 new or expanded facilities creating more than 9,000 jobs when operating at full capacity. But uncertainty about the PTC also threatens that investment, according to the AWEA.

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