Right now, North America accounts for approximately 22 percent of the total installed wind energy generation capacity. But installations will more than double in the region during the next five years, according to the Pike Research "Wind Energy Outlook for North America."
By 2017, the capacity in North America should reach approximately 125 gigawatts, the report suggests. That's an investment of roughly $145 billion over the period, one that Pike Research analysts believe is being fueled by the consolidation of several high-profile players in the wind technology space and by more cooperation between manufacturers and developers.
What is particularly intriguing (to me at least) is that onshore installations likely will account for up to 97 percent of the total, which means all the squawking over offshore wind installations isn't really expected to amount to much over that time period.
Overall, I was surprised to read wind energy projects account for only 2.3 percent of the total electricity generation in the United States, compared with upwards of 20 percent in other countries. That's pretty minimal, especially when you consider all the windy regions of the country. Pike Research puts that down to the investment climate and limited support in terms of tax incentives -- along with uncertainty as to whether existing incentives will be extended.
What will it take to help wind energy gust into a more prominent position on the U.S. power scene? One positive factor might be some industry consolidation that has helped major wind turbine manufacturers get more involved with wind farm developers. The bigger factor, in my opinion, will be technology prices, as we have seen already with solar technology. We'll have to see if everything comes together to support these predictions.