While the nation's economy fought off a depression but contracted in 2009 and then resumed slow growth in 2010 that barely continued in the first half of 2011, wind power in the USA has been in an historic boom.
Moving from the fringe, a joke to some, wind power will basically grow from 25,000 megawatts in 2009 to 50,000 megawatts by 2011 or at the latest March, 2012.
This extraordinary success, a true energy revolution, comes at at time of low power prices as well as a poor economy, making the success of wind power more remarkable.
Wind power is now reaching substantial percentages of total power production in some states. According to Energy Information Administration data, wind power provided Texas 5% of its power in 2009 and 14% of Iowa's. In the first quarter of 2011, wind provided Iowa 20% of its power and 8% of Texas's.
Nationally in the first quarter of 2011, wind generation provided 2.5% of all our electricity. Wind energy will provide more than 3% of US power in 2012.
The American Wind Energy Association also reported that the domestic content of wind turbines installed in 2011 was 60%. Wind energy is creating tens of thousands of American jobs, providing landowners with lease checks, and paying significant taxes to local communities.
Wind energy's success is the result of much lower cost, more productive turbines as well as policy support from President Bush and President Obama and his Administration during the economic collapse and Renewable Portfolio Standards in states like Texas and Iowa.
What does the future hold for wind power? The low-hanging fruit or easiest wind farms to develop have now been built. In Texas, more major wind development will require significant new transmission that Texas seems committed to building.
Policy support will remain important. How important?
That depends to some extent on power prices. If power prices increase from current lows to about $75 per megawatt-hour, many wind power projects will be financially viable.