Turbine Timeline: 1990s

Hard times for the wind industry, but new energy tax credits gain ground in the 1990s


  • AWEA develops the concept of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) under the Energy Policy Act of 1992, gaining the bipartisan backing of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Philip Sharp (D-Ind.). The PTC rewards high-quality, long-lasting products, which entices investors and triggers development. However, the PTC expires several times between 1999 and 2003, causing 70-90 percent dips in annual wind installation each time before being renewed.


  • The variable-speed turbine is introduced by Kenetech (previously U.S. Windpower). The technology adjusts to wind’s speed instead of operating at a single speed, meaning less wasted energy, less wear-and-tear lower cost, and less expensive parts.
  • National Wind Technology Center is founded in Boulder, Colo., by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). It is the premier wind energy technology research facility in the United States.


  • The National Wind Coordinating Collaborative is formed.  AWEA and a diverse group of wind energy proponents unite in order to address a number of wind-related issues, over time focusing on ways to address wind energy’s interaction with wildlife and their habitats. The consensus-based group now promotes the shared goal of developing U.S. commercial markets for wind power while conserving natural resources.


  • AWEA further develops Iowa’s RPS concept, and with lobbying help from the Union of Concerned Scientists, gets RPS provisions passed in 12 states and written into several electric restructuring bills.
  • Wind farm in Lake Benton, Minn., is the first to be built in a single phase, by a single owner, and exceed 100 MW. The project, by Enron Wind (later GE Wind) boasts over 106 MW generating capacity.


  • The wind industry experiences a record-breaking year with more than 880 MW in states such as Iowa, Minnesota and Texas thanks to the PTC and RPS state energy mandates.  Total wind capacity for the United States is about 2,500 MW.
  • The first 80-meter (263-foot) tower is installed by York Industries at the Big Spring II wind power project (now owned by Terra-Gen) in Texas.