U.S. wind power accelerating at near-record pace

A wind energy trade group said capacity has roughly quadrupled from one year ago.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Updated May 2, 2017 at 11:42 AM
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May 2 (UPI) -- An annual report from a wind energy trade group in the United States found the sector is in the midst of extraordinary growth and Texas is leading the way.

Tuesday's report from the American Wind Energy Association found first quarter U.S. installations reached 2,000 megawatts, quadruple the capacity from one year ago, for one of the strongest quarters on record.

"The addition of North Carolina's first utility-scale wind project brings U.S. installed wind power capacity to 84,143 MW across 41 states," the report read.

With a White House under President Donald Trump moving in favor of legacy energy resources like oil and coal, the AWEA joined two other renewable energy trade groups last week in defending their role on the nation's grid.

In April, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry called for an investigation into the resilience and reliability of the nation's energy grid. With renewable resources like solar and wind deemed variable because of the nature of their power origins, the secretary said the issue was a critical one given regulatory burdens enacted by previous administrations that could impact legacy resources like coal-fired power generation.

In its annual report, the AWEA said it was the utility companies themselves that were taking the initiative through direct ownership of wind power.

"Utilities announced 1,150 MW of planned wind capacity additions under direct ownership during the first quarter of 2017, contributing to a total of 5,801 MW in total announcements since the beginning of 2016," the report read.

By state, Texas, the No. 1 oil producer in the United States, has the most installed wind power capacity on the grid and the most in the first quarter with 724 megawatts.

Hannah Hunt, a senior AWEA analyst and an author of the report, said it's not just the conventional energy that's driving the overall sector forward.

"Many people may not realize that Texas, which is famous for oil and gas, also makes a quarter of all the wind energy in America," told UPI. "Right now there are enough turbines being developed in America to add another Texas worth of wind capacity in the near term."

German energy company E.ON in March announced plans to build batteries in Texas that have the ability to store 20 megawatts of power from renewable energy resources. The company said wind farms are becoming more cost-competitive, with the budget for the Texas projects coming in below what similar projects cost in 2009.

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