2017 Q1: US wind industry has most installs in eight years

US wind industry

The US wind industry switched on more megawatts in the first quarter of 2017 than in the first three quarters of last year combined. Flickr photo by Sparky.

US wind industry installed 2,000 megawatts of capacity in Q1

In the first quarter of this year, the US wind industry installed 2,000 megawatts of capacity, nearly four times the amount installed at the same time last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

In its first-quarter report released Tuesday, the AWEA says this is the industry’s strongest start since 2009.

“We switched on more megawatts in the first quarter than in the first three quarters of last year combined,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA.

Texas is the overall leader in the United States for wind power capacity with 21,000 MW installed.  That is enough electricity to power over 5 million average homes.

Over 99 per cent of wind farms are built in rural areas and, along with providing electricity, the wind farms provide rural landowners and farmers with income from land leases.

Horace Pritchard, a North Carolina landowner said “Farms have been growing corn, soybeans, and wheat for a long time here, and the wind farm revenue means a lot of families are protected from pricing swings, floods or droughts going forward.”

“We’re just adding another locally-grown crop to our fields, with very little ground taken out of production, and the improved roads really help with access. So it’s a great fit here,” said Pritchard.

Wind energy now pays over $245 million per year in land-lease payments to local landowners, many of them farmers and ranchers.  Over 500 factories in the US are part of the wind energy supply chain and over 100,000 employees work in the industry.

“Each new modern wind turbine supports 44 years of full-time employment over its lifespan, so the turbines we installed in just these three months represent nearly 40,000 job years for American workers,” said Kiernan.

About one-quarter of the megawatts installed during the first quarter are for buyers outside the utility industry, including the US Army, Amazon.com, Alphabet Inc’s Google Home Depot and Intuit Inc.

The US wind industry is in the third year of a five-year phase-down of the Production Tax Credit and analysts are expecting 2017 to be a strong year for wind power.  However, beginning in 2017, the credit’s value will drop by 20 per cent each year for projects that start construction in 2017 through to 2019.


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