Things are looking good for the wind power industry. According to the first annual report released by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program on the wind power industry, the U.S. wind market is the fastest growing in the world.

The report, “Annual Report on U.S. Wind Power Installation, Cost, and Performance Trends: 2006,” notes that 2,454 megawatts (MW) of wind capacity were added in the United States in 2006. However, there is the potential for even more growth in the years to come.

The report states that wind power has provided good value in wholesale power markets in recent years and has generally been priced at or below the cost of conventional fossil fuel generation. Furthermore, wind project performance has increased over the last several years as a result of improved designs and technologies. This may partially offset the rising cost of turbines, which has occurred during the same period.

Echoing this optimistic forecast, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) projects the U.S. wind energy industry to install more than 3,000 MW of wind power generating capacity nationwide by the end of 2007. More than 100 MW have come online this year so far, and more than 10 times that amount is under construction.

The state of Texas is expected to account for about two-thirds of these new installations. One thousand megawatts are under construction there. Texas now is the nation’s leader in wind-generating capacity, having recently surpassed California.

According to the AWEA, cumulative wind power generating capacity in the United States now stands at 11,699 MW. This capacity will generate an estimated 31 billion kilowatt-hours this year, enough to serve the equivalent of nearly 3 million average households.  EC