2012 Sees Wind Power Grow Faster than Natural Gas Plants

By: Restructuring Today |

Wind power beat natural gas in terms of new installations last year, making 2012 the first year that a renewable resource was the biggest source of new power plants, AWEA reported yesterday.  The industry installed 13,124 MWs overall, using about $25 billion in private investment and pushing cumulative installations in the US just above 60,000 MWs.

The 13,000 MWs made up 42% of all new generating capacity and in total renewables made up 55% of new capacity, said AWEA.

The year was a record in wind installation, easily beating the previous record of 10,000 MWs in 2010.  Over half of the year’s installations were in Q4 when the industry put up 8,380 MWs as the production tax credit was set to expire.  That mark was a quarterly record — more than doubling the previous record.

“It is a real testament to American innovation and hard work that for the first time ever a renewable energy source was number one in new capacity,” said AWEA Interim CEO Rob Gramlich.  “We are thrilled to mark this major milestone in the nation’s progress toward a cleaner energy system.”

The PTC was extended in the “fiscal cliff” package, so this year, any plant that starts construction will qualify for the subsidy.  Many of the details about that have yet to be worked out by the IRS, but the extension itself has led to the industry getting back to work, Gramlich said on a conference call yesterday.

Texas was the number one state for new installations with 1,826 MWs installed, followed by California at 1,656 MWs, Kansas at 1,440 MWs, Oklahoma at 1,127 MWs, Illinois at 823 MWs and Iowa at 8,14 MWs.

Texas was far and away the largest state in cumulative installations with over 12,000 MWs built there so far.  California retook the number two spot from Iowa, which had held it for several years and both those states have over 5,000 MWs installed.

Now 15 states have at least 1,000 MWs with Pennsylvania joining that club this year and in total, 39 states have some wind power installed including most of the 11 in the Southeast.  The Southeast might not have much local wind, but load servers there have contracted with out-of-region wind — such as the TVA that bought the production from half of the 823 MWs installed in Illinois last year.

Almost 10,000 MWs of the wind built last year had some kind of off-take arrangement in place.  About 15% of the projects were built to sell into the spot market with 45% of those being built in PJM and another 29% in ERCOT.

2012 Sees Wind Power Grow Faster than Natural Gas Plants