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Wind industry breezes to record year in 2009

April 8, 2010 |  2:55 pm

The wind power industry enjoyed record growth last year, according to a national trade group.

And there could be even greater highs, said the American Wind Energy Assn. on Thursday, if only lawmakers could agree on a national renewable electricity standard.

The industry installed more than 10,000 megawatts of wind power throughout the country in 2009, producing as much electricity as three large nuclear power plants or enough to power 2.4 million homes. There are now more than 35,000 megawatts being generated in the U.S., the group said.

Windfarm Texas, with 9,405 megawatts of capacity and the largest installed wind farms, leads all the states. Iowa, which gets 14% of its power from wind, followed with 3,670 megawatts along with California, with 2,723 megawatts. Fourteen states have more than 1,000 megawatts – or 1 gigawatt – of wind power installed.

But manufacturing is growing at a slower rate than 2008, the association said. Ten new factories became functional last year while 20 were announced and nine were expanded. Throughout the country, more than 200 facilities manufacture wind turbine components.

GE Energy continues to dominate wind turbine sales in the country while NextEra Energy Resources still tops the list of wind farm owners. Xcel Energy in Minnesota is once again heading utilities in wind power use.

The wind industry employs about 85,000 people, who have access to 205 educational programs such as colleges and technical schools offering a certificate, degree or coursework related to wind energy, the association said.

Demand for residential and small-business wind systems producing 100 kilowatts or less boomed 15% in 2009, tacking on 20 megawatts of capacity nationwide.

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: A wind farm near Shabbona, Ill. Credit: Alex Garcia / MCT

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