Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wind Has A Record First Quarter For New Generation But Dark Clouds Forming

The 2012 first quarter wind power results document both that wind power is big business and that tens of thousands of jobs could be created or lost in the months ahead.

Another 1,695 megawatts of new wind power came on line during the first quarter, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The 2012 first quarter was up 52%, compared to same period in 2011, and was so strong that it set a record for the most megawatts installed in a first quarter.

Yet, the healthy wind gains are the start of the 2012 surge that increasingly could lead to a period of calm, if the production tax credit that expires at the end of this year is not extended.  Layoffs are already increasing in the wind manufacturing supply chain, as orders for 2013 fall substantially.  More than 37,000 jobs are in the process of being lost at least temporarily by the failure of Congress to extend the production tax credit.

As such, it is both the best and worst of times in the wind industry.  Wind construction jobs are at high levels but manufacturing and development positions are shrinking.

At the end of the first quarter, the US wind capacity stood at 48,611 megawatts, and wind generation is nearing 4% of US electricity supply, according to EIA data.  The top 5 states during January to March were California (370 MW), Oregon, (308 MW), Texas (254 MW), Washington (127 MW), and Pennsylvania (121  MW).  Pennsylvania increased its wind capacity by 15%.

Impressively another 8,916 megawatts of wind power is under construction in 31 states and Puerto Rico, making it probable that 2012 could see more than 10,000 megawatts of wind power built.

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