The AWEA Recently announced that in November of 2015, the United States reached the 70 gigawatts production milestone for the first time in its history. This is great news for an industry that had plateaued over the last couple years with the uncertainty created by the government and clean energy tax credits. The 50 and 60 gigawatt levels were achieved back in 2012. 2013 proved to be slower year for new wind energy projects, but that has changed in 2014, with over 8.3 billion dollars invested.
Better Times Ahead
The momentum for 2015 and beyond is increasing for many reasons. The first is the extensions of the Production Tax Credit and alternate Investment Tax Credit by Congress, which gives stability and predictability to the industry through at least 2019. These credits make new wind energy projects more affordable, encouraging investment.
Another big reason is that wind energy prices have reached all time lows. In order to be competitive in the energy market, wind energy has to make financial sense for the organizations buying and investing in energy. With wind energy prices the lowest they have ever been, they are very competitive economically on the market.
More Progress to be Made
While 70 gigawatts of energy production is a great milestone for a budding industry, there is still a long way to go before wind energy is a viable alternative for U.S. residents. At this point, energy produced by wind makes up only 5% of total U.S. energy consumption – meaning there is still great long-term potential for increases in wind energy production.
These days, jobs in the field of wind energy are abundant. New wind turbines are being constructed every day at wind farms all over the country, and the technicians needed to support these machines are in short supply. Often, graduates of the top wind turbine technician programs have multiple job offers by the time the graduate. This is an excellent position to be in. In addition, there is no reason this trend of rapid growth should not continue. The United States Department of Energy has the stated goal of 20% of the nations’ power to come from wind energy by the year 2030 (www.20percentwind.org). This growth means long-term job security for just about every type of career in wind energy, including wind turbine technician jobs.
In the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the country’s nuclear power plants, Japan has decided to go in a completely different direction with its energy policy.
This July, construction will begin on what will become the world’s largest offshore wind farm. The farm will consist of 143 wind turbines, which in total will generate 1 gigawatt of renewable power for the country. Construction is expected to be completed by the year 2020. This farm will be located 16 kilometers off of the coast of Fukushima, which is home to the widely publicized Daiichi nuclear reactor. This reactor was badly damaged during the tsunami, and is still not functional today.
The tsunami of 2011 forced the shutdown of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors. To date, only two have resumed operations.
Last week, Cartier Wind Energy announced the Gros-Morne Phase II wind project is now operational. Why is this a big deal? Now that phase II is complete, the Gros-Morne wind farm is the largest in Canada, a country that is one of the world leaders in wind energy. This project was awarded by the province of Québec as part of an effort to reach 1,000 Megawatts of new wind power capacity by the end of 2012. The Gros-Morne wind farm alone will now generate 211.5 Megawatts, and can power up to 20,000 residences.
Québec is set to award more contracts in 2013, in an effort to add another 700 Megawatts of capacity. In all, Canada is on pace to double their total wind capacity by the year 2014 – up to 10 Gigawatts of energy production.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love statistics. Statistics are cold, hard, empirical facts that cannot be disputed. Debates and discussions begin with opinions, but are settled with facts. It is even better when statistics are compiled and presented in a way that make them easy to understand and get a point across quickly. This makes statistics more accessible to those of us who are, let’s say….less mathematically inclined. Recently the United States Department of Energy created a suite of graphics that very quickly and succinctly outline the current state of the wind energy industry in America. Take a look for yourself and enjoy!