Wind Reaches “High Water Mark”

A recent American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) report indicates that in 2015, wind surpassed hydroelectricity in U.S. installed capacity. The nation’s hydroelectric generating facilities had long been the largest source of renewable energy capacity. Thanks to the extension of the production tax credit (PTC) for wind generation resources through 2019 (with a gradual phase down in the amount of the credit available), the construction of wind generation has continued to surge.

The analysis reported that installed capacity for wind was 82,183 megawatts compared to hydro’s 78,956 megawatts in 2015. The PTC, along with individual state mandates for increasing renewable energy resources over the past few years, is credited with the substantial increase in the development of wind generation resources.

The continued growth in the wind energy sector is also evidenced by the number of jobs attributable to the construction and operation of wind facilities. Department of Energy statistics indicate that the wind industry now employs some 102,000 workers. While the new Administration in Washington, D.C. is not thought to be supportive of renewable energy in general, it is hard to argue with the magnitude of the number of jobs created by the renewable energy industry.

In addition to the current level of employment in the wind industry, large infrastructure projects such as high voltage electric transmission lines and the materials needed to complete those projects, may see a dramatic increase if certain presidential campaign promises are to be believed. These projects are especially prevalent in the rural parts of the country where persistent unemployment is said to have been the impetus for ushering in the new team in Washington. As a consequence, renewables may have greater staying power than would initially be expected under the new Administration.