U.S. holds wind power lead, but China coming on fast

The U.S. still leads in overall capacity in wind energy, but China is coming on fast. Does the U.S. "get" wind energy? Denise Bode, who heads the American Wind Energy Association, doesn't think so.
Written by John Dodge, Contributor

What single country has the most generating capacity from wind power? If you guessed the good `ol U.S. of A., you'd be right.

Despite difficult domestic and world economies, the U.S. finished 2009 with 35,159 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity to second place Germany's 25,777 MW. However, China with 25,104 MW is closing the gap: it was number one in new wind capacity in 2009 with 13,000 MW to second place finisher, the U.S. with 9,922 MW.

AWEA CEO Denise Bode

These numbers were released earlier this month by the wind energy manufacturers organization Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) based in Brussels. The GWEC boasts 1,500 members and includes several household names in turbine manufacturing such as Vestas, GE, Siemens and Alstom on its board.

Overall, global capacity grew by 31 per cent or 37.5 gigawatts to 157.9 gigawatts. It was a good year for wind power despite stagnant oil prices and the twin storms of recession and the world financial crisis.

While the U.S. maintained a "comfortable lead" in total output, according to the GWEC, there is deep concern about the U.S. wind turbine manufacturing industry. In a statement, Denise Bode, CEO of American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), did not mince words:

"The U.S. still remains the largest market in cumulative capacity for the second year in a row but here again China is hard on our heels, If this isn’t the ‘case-closed’ evidence that America must have stable renewable energy policy and hard targets in order to create jobs and revitalize our economy, I don’t know what is. China gets it, 37 other nations get it, and we still don’t.  It is time to act now on a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) so that America can immediately create manufacturing jobs and be the world wind power leader. The economy can’t wait, job creation can’t wait, and America can’t wait.”

ABC News just reported about 80 per cent of $2 billion in stimulus funds last year went to overseas manufacturers for projects here. "According to our estimates, about 6,000 jobs have been created overseas, and maybe a couple hundred have been created in the U.S.," Russ Choma at theInvestigative Reporting Workshop was quoted as saying in the ABC story.

source: Global Wind Energy Council

The picture in the U.S. might have been brighter had T. Boone Pickens' carried through on his 2008 plan to build 5,000 MW in Pampa, Texas. That project, shelved by the financial crisis,  would have amounted to a 687-turbine order for GE although Pickens is buying 300 turbines for projects in Canada and Minnesota. according to a release on PR-Canada.net.

Once a pioneer in wind turbines and government initiatives to encourage its expansion, new capacity in Germany tapered off last year to 1,917 MW. Taking the third spot in new capacity behind China and the U.S. was Spain with 2,458 MW last year. As a continent, the 15 countries of Europe are far in front with 76,152 MW to next closest Asia with 38,909 MW.

“Copenhagen didn’t bring us any closer to a global price on carbon, but wind energy continued to grow due to national energy policy in our main markets and also because many governments in prioritized renewable energy development in their economic recovery plans,” GWEC Secretary General Steve Sawyer said in a release.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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