Today, AWEA released its U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, Year Ending 2015, which showcases strong continued growth throughout the year.
2015 was one of the most successful years ever for U.S. wind power. The industry installed the third most new wind power capacity in history, second only to 2009 and 2012. Wind project construction, a stabilizing manufacturing sector, and the growing need for wind turbine technicians spurred strong job growth. A host of new wind energy buyers contracted for record amounts of wind power capacity, and most importantly, costs continued to fall, enabling wind power to be the number one new source of electric generating capacity in 2015.
Here are the year’s top nine trends:
1. Record wind jobs: U.S. wind energy now supports 88,000 well-paying American jobs, a 20 percent increase over 2014. American wind power added over 15,000 jobs last year, and 21,000 workers now have positions at over 500 factories across 43 states.
2. #1 new power capacity source: Wind power was the largest source of new electric generating capacity in 2015. It represented 41 percent of all new electric power to come online – more than solar or natural gas. In the wind rich regions of the Midwest, Pacific Northwest and Plains states, wind continued to be the primary choice for new power, providing 59 percent or more of all capacity between 2011 and 2015.
3. Wind delivers environmental benefits: Wind projects avoided an estimated 132 million metric tons of carbon dioxide during 2015 – the equivalent of reducing over 28 million cars’ worth of CO2. Wind power also avoided 176,000 metric tons of sulfur dioxide and 106,000 metric tons of nitrogen oxide, pollutants that create smog and trigger asthma attacks. By cutting these emissions, wind created $7.3 billion in public health benefits just last year.
4. New kinds of customers bought lots of wind: An emerging customer segment continued to grow demand for wind power, as major corporations and other non-utility purchasers bought increasing amounts of wind power. Last year Fortune 500 companies, cities, and universities signed 52 percent of the megawatts contracted through power purchase agreements (PPAs). Big brands like Google and General Motors, and cities like Washington, D.C. signed large wind power PPAs. Procter & Gamble bought enough wind last fall to manufacture all of its U.S. home care products, like Tide and Mr. Clean.
5.Wind generation records set: Iowa reached a significant milestone, becoming the first U.S. state to generate over 31 percent of its electricity with wind. South Dakota followed in second place, surpassing 25 percent, while Texas hit 10 percent for the first time. Overall, a dozen states now use wind to generate at least 10 percent of their electricity.
6. Wind benefits rural communities: 99.9 percent of wind projects are located in rural areas, and 70 percent are located in low-income counties. In 2015, wind projects paid $222 million in lease payments to landowners for hosting wind turbines. These lease payments act as drought resistant cash crops, providing a stable source of income. Additionally, the wind industry has invested more than $101 billion, cumulatively, in low-income, rural communities.
7. American offshore wind officially became a reality: The country’s first project, Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm, off the coast of Rhode Island, began construction last year and is scheduled to be operational by the end of 2016. Another 13 projects in 10 states are in various stages of development, on both coasts and in the Great Lakes.
8. Wind benefits every state: There are wind projects or wind-related manufacturing facilities in all 50 states and in over 70 percent of U.S. Congressional districts. The industry invested more than $14.7 billion in new wind projects and supported 88,000 jobs.
9. The U.S. was the world’s top wind energy producer in 2015, generating more electricity from wind than China, Germany and every other country. U.S. wind turbines generated a record 190.9 million megawatt hours of electricity in 2015, enough to power 17.5 million American homes.