Sheila McNulty Wind power grew in 2009, but 2010 will be a bigger test

Wind power surged ahead in 2009, breaking all previous records by installing over 9,900 megawatts of new generating capacity in 2009. That is enough to serve over 2.4m homes and expanded the nation’s wind plant fleet by 39 per cent, bringing total wind power generating capacity in the US to over 35,000 megawatts. But do not read too much into those headline-grabbing facts.

Total manufacturing investment dropped compared to 2008, with one-third fewer online, announced and expanded wind power manufacturing facilities in 2009. That resulted in job losses in the sector. In the words of Denise Bode, chief executive of the American Wind Power Association:

US wind turbine manufacturing – the canary in the mine – is down compared to last year’s levels, and needs long-term policy certainty and market pull in order to grow. We need to set hard targets, in the form of a national Renewable Electricity Standard, in order to provide the necessary stability for manufacturers to expand their US opeerations and to seize the historic opportunity we have today to build up a thriving renewable energy industry.

Despite all the talk of the need to legislate carbon emissions and grow renewables, the US has not even started incentivising with a Renewable Electricity Standard, which would require electricity providers to generate a certain per centage of their power from renewable sources. Indeed, wind energy still only provides 1.25 per cent of US power.

This is just one more reminder that the road to a clean energy future is extremely long.