American wind power now has its longest policy certainty in decades just as it reaches new heights, surpassing 70 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity in the U.S. This can provide enough energy in one year to light up the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree for over 440,000 years.
On Friday, Congress agreed to include a multi-year extension of the renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) in its end-of-the-year negotiations on tax extenders and government funding.
The agreement, which provides the multi-year predictability we have called for, will enable wind energy to create more affordable, reliable, clean energy for all Americans. The latter years of the pact will provide some challenges, but the wind industry will work to overcome them with our employees, partners and champions.
Crossing the record 70 GW mark shows the success of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) in driving renewable energy growth across the U.S. The performance-based PTC has helped attract over $100 billion in private investment since 2008 while advancing wind turbine technology, lowering wind power's costs by 66 percent in just six years. As a result, U.S. wind farms are number one in the world in wind energy production.
Growing wind power also created 73,000 American jobs, including nearly 20,000 manufacturing positions at over 500 factories in 43 states. Many parts of the country are now experiencing a "wind rush," as new wind farms are built with turbines accessing faster, steadier winds at higher altitudes, making them more economical in more places.
Over 50,000 wind turbines now make up the more than 980 utility-scale wind farms operating across 40 states and Puerto Rico, representing over 70,000 GW of installed wind capacity. American wind power began 2015 with a capacity of 65,877 GW, with 956 utility-scale wind projects installed across 39 states and Puerto Rico. Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas all rely on wind to generate over 20 percent of their electricity.
Said another way, there's now enough wind installed in the U.S. to supply electricity for 19 million typical American homes. It's also enough wind power to meet the annual combined electricity consumption of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming.
Recent wind projects pushing the industry past the 70 GW mark since the start of October include installations in Colorado, Maine, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and North Dakota. Other additions include the first utility-scale project to be completed in the state of Connecticut.
At the end of the third quarter of 2015, a near record of more than 13,250 MW of wind capacity were under construction in the U.S., with an additional 4,100 MW in advanced stages of development.
More of this good news is on the way. The Department of Energy's (DOE) recent "Wind Vision" report found wind could supply 20 percent of the country's electricity by 2030, supporting as many as 380,000 jobs.
According to the Congressional agreement, the PTC will be extended for 2015 and 2016, and will continue at 80 percent of present value in 2017, 60 percent in 2018, and 40 percent in 2019. As before, PTC language will allow wind projects to qualify for the PTC as long as they start construction by the end of 2019.
Our industry has finally gotten a break from the repeated boom-bust cycles that we've had to weather over two decades of uncertain tax policies. Now we're poised to expand upon these gains and, together, build a future that will make all Americans proud.