US ranks No. 1 for new wind projects

The United States has become the top market in the world for new wind projects, according to a market report issued Thursday.

Wind projects made up more than 40 percent of the new generation capacity added in 2012, outpacing natural gas, which made up 32 percent of generation capacity. Coal, nuclear power and other renewables made up the rest, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s annual market report.

“We saw an uptick in every region of the country for new installations in 2012,” said Emily Williams, senior policy analyst for the American Wind Energy Association, during a webinar announcing the report’s findings Thursday afternoon.

“We have states like Iowa and South Dakota receiving more than 20 percent of their energy from wind,” Williams said. “Wind is making a big mainstream impact across the country.”

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Wind energy has increased in its widespread adoption, even as the shale revolution has made domestic supplies of natural gas and oil more readily available. There are now 15 states with more than 1,000 megawatts of wind generation, according to AWEA. Texas is leading the pack, with 12,000 megawatts of capacity, followed by California, Iowa, Illinois and Oregon.

One megawatt of electricity can power about 200 homes during periods of peak demand.

The Obama administration has expressed support of renewable energy, and included a 40 percent increase in spending on clean tech renewable energy in its proposed budget issued on Wednesday.

But major energy companies still struggle to make the renewable businesses as economically profitable as more traditional energy sectors.

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BP, which was the fifth largest developer of new wind capacity in 2012, announced last week that it plans to sell its U.S. wind energy assets, which include interests in 16 operating wind farms in nine states with a generating capacity of 2,600 megawatts. It currently has four wind farms in Texas.

“BP has decided to market for sale our U.S. wind energy business as part of a continuing effort to become a more focused oil and gas company and re-position the company for sustainable growth into the future,” said Brett Clanton, a spokesman for BP. “For BP, this effort represents another example of prudent and active management of our global portfolio, consistent with our pledge to unlock more value for shareholders.”

Clanton said that BP will continue to invest in its ethanol production facilities in Brazil and the U.K. and in biofuel technology research.

The full name of the report is AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report Year Ending 2012.