As the renewable power revolution carries on, wind power continues to lead the way.
According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the trade association for the U.S. wind energy industry, 2011 was a year of many milestones, and 2012 promises more of the same.
Topping AWEA’s list of notable achievements were two states that crossed the important threshold of getting 20 percent of their electricity from wind. Iowa and South Dakota hit this record-breaking level of penetration for the United States.
Another first occurred in October, when the Public Service Co. of Colorado set a wind power record by getting 55.6 percent of the electricity on its system at one time from wind power. Similarly, when more than 50 power plants totaling more than 7,000 MW went offline in Texas due to a cold snap last winter, wind power helped pick up the slack, providing close to 4,000 MW of desperately needed power during a critical episode.
Helping drive the charge toward a greater penetration of wind power and other renewables into state energy markets, last year California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that increased the Golden State’s renewable energy portfolio standard from 20 percent to 33 percent by 2020.
Along the same lines, the U.S. Departments of Energy and the Interior took steps to help offshore turbines contribute to the expanding role of wind. It released a strategy to pursue the deployment of 10 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2020 and 54 GW by 2030, and it created “wind energy areas” off the coasts of several Atlantic region states.
The 2012 outlook is equally promising. For example, the industry can be expected to act quickly in the coming months to install new facilities and capture the benefit of the federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC) before it is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Also, the Southeast region of the United States is expected to expand as a key player in the region, with 74 manufacturing plants already located there and more projects underway.
But the momentum from 2011 and the promising forecast for 2012 hinge on how Congress handles the PTC at the end of the year.