Wind blew strong in renewable energy in 2009

The wind-energy industry blew like crazy last year when more than 10,000 megawatts of production was added. Wind now provides 1.8% of all U.S. power, according to the American Wind Energy Association, which released a report today.

Wind provided 39% of the new generating capacity last year. Fourteen states are part of the "Gigawatt Club" with more than 1,000 megawatts of wind power capacity installed, and the wind industry supported 85,000 jobs nationwide, the association said.

Wind energy is a vital part of the country's renewable-energy portfolio, which encompasses about 10.5% of the nation's power mix. Texas and Iowa are No. 1 and 2 in wind energy, with California ranking third. Washington and Oregon round out the top five.

The majority of wind turbines in California are in Altamont Pass east of San Francisco, San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs and near Tehachapi in Kern County. Kern County is among the jurisdictions covered by the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization.

Here are some highlights from the report:

•Offshore wind power is gaining momentum in the U.S. The report lists seven projects with significant progress in the planning, permitting, and testing process. Both the federal government and several states established significant milestones in 2009 to encourage offshore wind power development.

•America’s wind power production of 35,000 MW will avoid an estimated 62 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to taking 10.5 million cars off the road.

•America’s wind power fleet will conserve approximately 20 billion gallons of water annually that would otherwise be lost to evaporation from steam of cooling in conventional power plants.
Photo of windmills in Altamont Pass.