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Report: Illinois wind energy production surges

August 15, 2012

• Failure to renew renewable energy tax incentives could result in loss of 37,000 jobs

Staff Report

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Energy Department released a new report Aug. 14 highlighting strong growth in the U.S. wind energy market in 2011, increasing the U.S. share of clean energy and supporting tens of thousands of jobs, and underscoring the importance of continued policy support and clean energy tax credits to ensure the manufacturing and jobs associated with this booming global industry remain in America.

President Barack Obama (D) has made clear that clean, renewable wind energy is a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy that aims to develop more secure, domestic energy sources, while strengthening American manufacturing.

According to the 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report, Illinois is one the country’s largest and fastest-growing wind markets, ranking second among all U.S. states in new wind power capacity.

The report finds that in 2011, Illinois installed 692 megawatts (MW) of new wind-power capacity, bringing its total to more than 2,700 MW, or enough to power about 680,000 homes.

This report shows that America can lead the world in the global race to manufacture and deploy clean energy technologies,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “The wind industry employs tens of thousands of American workers and has played a key role in helping to more than double wind power over the last four years. To ensure that this industry continues to stay competitive, President Obama has called on Congress to extend the successful clean-energy tax credits, which are benefiting businesses and manufacturers nationwide.”

Nationally, wind power represented a remarkable 32 percent of all new electric capacity additions in the United States last year and accounted for $14 billion in new investment.

According the report, the percentage of wind equipment made in America also increased dramatically. Nearly 70 percent of the equipment installed at U.S. wind farms last year — including wind turbines and components like towers, blades, gears and generators — is now from domestic manufacturers, doubling from 35 percent in 2005. See an interactive map of manufacturing facilities across the U.S., including those in Illinois at http://energy.gov/maps/wind-manufacturing-facilities.

The report also found that in 2011, roughly 6,800 megawatts (MW) of new wind power capacity was added to the U.S. grid, a 31 percent increase from 2010 installations.

The United States’ wind power capacity reached 47,000 MW by the end of 2011, and has since grown to 50,000 MW, enough electricity to power 13 million homes annually or as many homes as in Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama and Connecticut combined.

The country’s cumulative installed wind energy capacity grew 16 percent from 2010, and has increased more than18-fold since 2000.

The growth in the industry has also led directly to more American jobs throughout a number of sectors and at factories across the country.

According to industry estimates, the wind sector employs 75,000 American workers, including workers at manufacturing facilities up and down the supply chain, as well as engineers and construction workers who build and operate the wind farms. In Illinois alone, the industry supported 5,000 to 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in 2010.

Technical innovation allowing for larger wind turbines with longer, lighter blades has steadily improved wind turbine performance and increased the efficiency of power generation from wind energy. At the same time, wind project capital and maintenance costs continue to decline, driving U.S. manufacturing competitiveness on the global market.

For new wind projects deployed last year, the price of wind under long-term power purchase contracts with utilities averaged 40 percent lower than in 2010 and about 50 percent lower than in 2009, making wind competitive with a range of wholesale power prices seen in 2011.

Despite these recent technical and infrastructure improvements and continued growth in 2012, the report finds that 2013 may see a dramatic slowing of domestic wind energy deployment partly the result of the possible expiration of federal renewable energy tax incentives.

The Production Tax Credit (PTC), which provides an important tax credit to wind producers in the United States and has helped drive the industry’s growth, is set to expire at the end of this year. The wind industry projects that 37,000 jobs could be lost if the PTC expires.

Working in tandem with the PTC, the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit provides a 30 percent investment credit to manufacturers who invest in capital equipment to make components for clean energy projects in the United States. President Obama has called for an extension of these successful tax credits to ensure America leads the world in manufacturing the clean energy technologies of the future.

See the full annual report and download underlying data produced by the Energy Department’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/resources.html.

From the Aug. 15-21, 2012, issue

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