The fourth quarter 2014 wind energy industry report released yesterday by the American Wind Energy Association(AWEA) shows that the U.S. wind industry rebounded last year. The year saw four times more new wind energy come online than in the previous 12 months.
The wind energy industry added 4,854 MW of generating capacity in 2014, with cumulative installed capacity increasing eight percent to a total 65,879 MW. Projects were completed in 19 states, adding enough capacity to power over 1.4 million U.S. homes. Such capacity will avoid some 130 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of removing 28 million cars from the roads.
American wind power now supports manufacturing jobs at over 500 facilities in 43 states, with an average of 73,000 jobs secured over the last five years. Investments in new U.S. wind farms has driven an average of $12 billion a year in private investment over the last five years, with wind farms delivering more than $180 million a year to landowners in lease payments.
The amount of installed wind capacity in 2014 still falls short of the record 13,000 MW installed in 2012, with many industry leaders blaming uncertain federal policies for the lower numbers.
The Production Tax Credit (PTC) was extended only two weeks beyond 2014 yearend, but has now expired. Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, pointed out that it has been U.S. policy to provide energy tax credits for the last 100 years, and that every other source of electricity in the country has tax relief.
The PTC provides a tax credit of 2.3 cents for each kilowatt-hour a project produces in its first 10 years. The policy has spurred $125 million of investment across the country and lowered the cost of wind power to less than half of its price just five years ago. But the recent loss of the PTC creates uncertainty in the market that can hinder the growth of the wind industry. The last time Congress allowed the credit to expire at the beginning of 2013, nearly 30,000 jobs and tens of billions of dollars in private investment were lost. Wind installations plummeted by 92 percent amid the uncertainty.
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