Green Right Now Reports

The wind is whipping down the plains, challenging the view that renewable energy can play only a small role on the electricity grid, according to figures released today by the American Wind Energy Association.

AWEA’s 2011 annual report shows that five states received more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind in 2011:

South Dakota (22.3%)

Iowa (18.8%)

North Dakota (14.7%)

Minnesota (12.7%)

Wyoming (10.1%).

Seven more states got more than 5 percent of their power from wind:

Colorado (9.2%)

Kansas (8.3%)

Oregon (8.2%)

Idaho (8.2%)

Oklahoma (7.1%)

Texas  (6.9% — 8.5% on ERCOT)

New Mexico (5.4%)

Washington (5.3%)

Altogether, the US added 6,816 megawatts (MW) in 2011, 31 percent more than in 2010, for a total of 46,916 MW installed wind capacity, according to AWEA.

There are more than 8,300 MW under construction currently, suggesting that 2012 also will be a strong year.

AWEA attributed the strong growth to the last five years of supportive bipartisan policies and improved efficiency and output of today’s wind turbines.

The industry group specifically credits the Production Tax Credit, which allows wind producers to recoup 30 percent of their outlay. The PTC is up for renewal this year.

The extension of the PTC once appeared in doubt, but its prognosis has improved.  A House bill to extend the existing PTC has attracted 90 cosponsors including 20 Republicans and similar legislation introduced March 15 in the Senate has been endorsed by seven senators, including three Republicans, according to AWEA.

AWEA also released job figures, showing that the industry employs 75,000 people, including 30,000 in wind manufacturing. It brings in $20 billion annually in private investment to the U.S, AWEA reported.

“This shows what wind power is capable of: building new projects, powering local economies and creating jobs,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “Traditional tax incentives are working.