WASHINGTON— The United States has more wind energy supplying its electrical grid than any other country, including China. With enough wind energy already online to power 15.5 million American homes, the world-record productivity of American wind power illustrates the success of the results-based federal Production Tax Credit now up for renewal.
Until recently the international standings in wind energy production have been difficult to establish because of missing data, but it can now be revealed that the U.S. holds roughly a 20 percent world lead in total wind-generated electricity – electrons actually delivered to factories, businesses and homes. That’s although China pulled ahead of the U.S. several years ago in installed wind turbine capacity, the theoretical maximum that all turbines would produce if running full-out, in which it holds roughly a 50 percent lead. Two recent reports by international monitoring groups contain the data needed to conclude that the U.S. has actually been No. 1 in wind energy production since 2008 when it passed Germany. As of 2013, the world ranking holds U.S. number one, China second and Spain in third.
“America is blessed with outstanding wind resources. We invented utility-scale wind farms, and by investing in building and fine-tuning them here in the U.S., we now have some of the best infrastructure ever built in this country,” said the author of the new analysis, Dr. James Walker, a pioneer of wind power. “This is a victory for American productivity, in an industry that began here and has rapidly evolved with the ingenuity of U.S. inventors, engineers, manufacturers, and developers.”
Over $120 billion worth of U.S. wind projects have been installed since the year 2000. Their high quality and reliability can be seen in their availability to operate on average more than 95 percent of the time the wind is strong enough to generate power.
“This shows once again that wind energy is an American success story,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan on a conference call today with reporters. “We’ve built an industry that’s revitalizing local and rural economies in the U.S., attracting $15 billion a year in private investment into our economy, and we’re leading the world in production.
“We have common-sense federal tax policy to thank for this production, the Production Tax Credit, which only rewards results. And being number one in the world is the best result you can ask for.”
“This is a win-win game,” Walker added, “but the way we got there over the last 10 or 15 years has been uniquely American. What is rewarded gets done. And competition improves the product.”
In 2013, the United States produced over 167 billion kWh of wind energy, whereas China produced and delivered 138 billion kWh, according to Walker’s analysis. It relies on data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency, the International Energy Agency, the Global Wind Energy Council, and the American Wind Energy Association.
American wind power not only leads the world in production, it does so with an American-made product, as more than half of the value of U.S. wind farms is now “made in the USA” with the favorable environment for investment in U.S. factories that the Production Tax Credit provides.
In addition, the U.S. wind energy industry has been able to lower its costs by more than half in the last five years, according to the recently released annual analysis of the levelized cost of energy by Wall Street advisory firm Lazard. In addition to the savings on shipping from close-by U.S. factories, investments in taller towers, longer blades, improved gearboxes, and transmission lines, and over 30 years of experience in siting and operating wind turbines to maximize their power output, have helped drive down costs and improve productivity.
As of September 2014, there were 46,600 wind turbines operating in the U.S. with a total generating capacity of 62,300 MW – enough to provide power for 15.5 million average American homes. A total of 1,254 megawatts have come online so far in 2014 and there is currently 13,600 MW under construction across 105 projects (of which 7,600 MW is in Texas).
Texas also leads the country in wind generation capacity, with 35,937 in thousand MWh, providing enough power for 3.3 million American homes, according to Energy Information Agency data for 2013. Iowa came in second (15,571 MW, 1.4 million homes), followed by California (13,230 MW, 1.2 million homes), Oklahoma (10,881 MW, 1 million homes), Illinois (10,881 MW, 880,000 homes), Kansas (9,430 MW, 870,000 homes), Minnesota (8,065 MW, 744,000 homes), Oregon (7,452 MW, 687,000 homes), Colorado (7,382 MW, 681,000 homes), and Washington (7,008 MW, 646,000 homes).
The American wind energy industry has built a new domestic manufacturing sector with 500 factories in 43 states, attracts an average of $15 billion a year in private investment into the U.S. economy, and supports an average of 73,000 well-paid jobs.
Dr. Walker is a past president of AWEA and now vice chairman of EDF Renewable Energy, a leading developer of wind energy. He served as CEO from October 2002 until March 2005, and was subsequently responsible for management of the company's portfolio of over $1 billion of operating wind projects. EDF Renewable Energy is a leading developer, owner and operator of wind projects and is wholly owned by EDF Energies Nouvelles.
He has over 30 years of experience in energy in public and private entities, including MCR Geothermal and Edison Mission Energy. He pioneered wind project development in Greece, Turkey and Mexico. After serving in the Office of Management and Budget in the Nixon and Ford administrations, he spent eight years at the California Energy Commission in the Jerry Brown administrations, serving as Executive Director, Commissioner and Vice Chairman.
Dr. Walker was named "Wind Energy Industry Person of the Year" at AWEA's national convention in June 2007. He has a B.A. in Physics from Princeton University and a Doctorate from Harvard Business School.