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U.S. Wind Power Capacity Grew 39% in 2009

The growth of wind power capacity in the U.S. is expanding rapidly, according to the annual report of the American Wind Energy Association. Wind power capacity grew by 39 percent in 2009, adding about 9,900 megawatts capable of generating 2 percent of electricity used in the U.S. The wind power capacity expansion was the largest annual jump on record to date, outpacing the 2008 total by more than 18 percent.

The Association said the growth of wind power was spurred in part by the federal stimulus package, which extended a wind energy tax credit and provided other investment incentives for wind power generation. The Association noted that much of the momentum in 2009 was due to delivery of huge wind turbines to new wind farms, and warned that a slowdown in new orders due to the recession might impact on the capacity expansion totals in 2010.

“The U.S. wind industry shattered all installation records in 2009, and this was directly attributable to the lifeline that was provided by the stimulus package,” said Denise Bode, the American Wind Energy Association’s chief executive.

Total U.S. wind power generating capacity now stands at an estimated 35,000 megawatts. Since 2002, the country’s installed base of wind turbines has jumped sevenfold.

Despite the jump in U.S. wind power generation, Europe is maintaining a solid lead in this alternative energy category. Europe currently gets about 5 percent of its electricity from wind power. The European Commission has set a goal for the European Union to achieve 20 percent of electricity generation from wind power by 2020.

Late last year, China also signaled its determination to become a leading wind power player by announcing that it intends to double its wind power capacity by the end of this year, an investment of $14.6 billion in the development of wind energy.

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