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U.S. wind power starts strong in 2016

American wind power just installed its highest amount of capacity in a first quarter since 2012.
U.S. wind power starts strong in 2016

How’s this for a good start- the U.S. wind industry just had its best first quarter in four years.

With strong installation and under construction numbers, as well as new technological advances, 2016 is already building off last year’s success.

Wind by the numbers

520 megawatts (MW) of new capacity came online during 2016’s first quarter, bringing the country ever-so close to 75 gigawatts (GW) of total installed capacity. In all, there’s now enough wind energy in the U.S. to power 20 million American homes.

And there’s more of the way. Over 10 GW of new wind power is currently under construction, and another 5.1 GW are in the advanced stages of development.

40 states plus Puerto Rico, and for the first time Guam, now have utility-scale wind projects.

During the year’s first three months, new wind projects came online in New Mexico, Iowa, Utah, Ohio and Oklahoma.

Technological advances

An exciting new technological advance also took place in Iowa, where the country’s tallest wind turbine now stands.

Part of a MidAmerican Energy project, a 168 meter-high prototype wind turbine, with a blade diameter of 108 meters, not only stands higher than any other turbine in America, it’s also built with a concrete tower, rather than traditional steel.

“This is the first concrete tower project for Siemens in North America, we’re proud to say the tower technology was conceived, designed, engineered, and constructed entirely in the United States,” said Michael McManus, Head of Business Development and Strategy for Siemens Americas Onshore Wind. “This project marks another milestone in our successful partnership with MidAmerican Energy to expand clean, renewable wind power in Iowa, and demonstrates Siemens’ continuous dedication to innovation to drive down the cost of wind energy around the globe.”

Emerging buyers continue to purchase wind

Big brands and other non-traditional buyers also continue to emerge as new customers for wind power. Fortune 500 companies 3M and Salesforce signed wind energy power purchase agreements (PPAs) during 2016’s first quarter, as well as the Department of Defense and others.

Non-traditional buyers signed more than a third of the wind energy capacity contracted during 2016’s first three months. This continues 2015’s trend, when 52 percent of all such capacity contracted was signed by businesses, universities, cities and other non-traditional buyers. These purchasers serve as an important source of new demand that helps more wind projects get built.

Reaching new heights

American wind power already reached new heights in 2015. By the end of the year, it supported a record-high 88,000 jobs in all 50 states, with more than 21,000 men and women employed at over 500 factories that build wind-related components. It was home to the country’s fastest growing job, wind turbine technician, and it created $7.3 billion in public health benefits by cutting the pollution that creates smog and triggers asthma attacks.

If 2016’s first quarter is any indication, we can expect to significantly build upon these milestones, creating a cleaner, prosperous America for generations to come.

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Hannah is AWEA's Senior Analyst, Industry and Data Analysis. She is focused on wind industry data and analysis, with applied GIS experience. Hannah joined AWEA in July 2014 after receiving her Master of Public Affairs (MPA) degree at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), with previous positions held at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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