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Wind Top Source of New US Energy

August 7, 2013 By Leon Walker

Wind Power

In 2012, wind energy became the number one source of new US electricity generation capacity for the first time – representing 43 percent of all new electric additions and accounting for $25 billion in US investment, according to Energy Department research.

The Energy Department has released two reports: The 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report, which details the latest trends in the US wind power market, and The 2012 Market Report on Wind Technologies in Distributed Applications, which looks at growth in the US distributed wind energy market.

According to the Wind Technologies report, over 13 GW of new wind power capacity were added to the US grid – nearly double the wind capacity deployed in 2011. This tremendous growth helped America’s total wind power capacity surpass 60 GW at the end of 2012 – representing enough capacity to power more than 15 million homes each year, or as many homes as in California and Washington State combined. The country’s cumulative installed wind energy capacity has increased more than 22-fold since 2000.

Colorado continues to be one of the country’s largest and fastest growing wind markets. The Wind Technologies Market Report finds that in 2012, Colorado installed 496 MW of new wind power capacity, bringing its total to about 2,300 MW. With this installed capacity, Colorado can generate about 13 percent of its electricity from wind energy, the report says.

At the same time, the proportion of wind turbine components such as towers, blades, and gears made in America has increased dramatically. The report estimates seventy-two percent of the wind turbine equipment installed in the U.S. last year was made by domestic manufacturers, nearly tripling from 25 percent in 2006-2007, the report says.

The Distributed Applications report finds that distributed wind in the US reached a 10-year cumulative installed capacity of more than 812 MW at the end of 2012 – representing more than 69,000 units across all 50 states. Between 2011 and 2012, US distributed wind capacity grew by 175 MW, with about 80 percent of this growth coming from utility-scale installations, the report says.

Still, most distributed wind buyers continue to choose small wind turbines, which have a rated capacity of no greater than 100 kW. Last year, domestic sales from US wind suppliers accounted for nearly 90 percent of new small wind generation capacity. Broadly, nine out of the top 10 wind turbine models installed last year in US distributed applications were made in America.
However, the growth of wind power is being undermined by aging grid infrastructure, reports the Merced Sun Star. The existing grid, which was built a generation ago and aimed at the needs of coal, nuclear and hydro power, makes transmission from wind farms costly and difficult, the paper reports.
For example, Duke Energy’s 57-turbine wind farm near Cimarron, Kan., has the potential to generate 131 MW of energy but faces “significant congestion” when trying to bring that energy to market, the paper reports.
One firm attempting to address this issue is consulting firm West Monroe Partners, which in July launched an online platform to help utilities manage the growing number of distributed generation technologies within their jurisdictions. The cloud-based ConnecttheGrid serves as an online resource for applicants to learn about requirements and then submit and track the status of their application. The tool also allows utilities to process applications as well as monitor and accurately forecast distributed generation resource performance to deliver stable and reliable grid operations.

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