In 2008, the U.S. became the top producer of wind energy, overtaking Germany. The same year, the U.S. wind energy capacity increased to 50 percent to 25 gigawatts (GW), enough to power over five million homes. German wind energy capacity reached almost 24 GW in 2008, making it second, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. New U.S. wind projects accounted for about 42 percent of its total new power-producing capacity in 2008.
Most of the wind turbines in the U.S. are imported from Europe and Asia. George Sterzinger, executive director of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, said a "mind-boggling number" of turbines installed in the U.S. are imported from Europe and Asia
"Right now we're buying a lot of technology from European countries: Germany, Spain,
and Denmark. But there's absolutely no question that 20 years ago we led the world in photovoltaics and wind, and we have the resources to at least be on par again," he said.
The good news is that the amount of wind turbine parts manufactured in the U.S. grew from less than 30 percent in 2005 to 50 percent in 2008. Both wind turbine and turbine parts manufacturers either added or expanded 55 facilities in 2008, which created 13,000 new direct jobs.
The U.S. installed 4,000 turbines in 2008. Over 10,000 will need to be added in order to reach the Obama administration's goal of 25 percent renewable energy production by 2025. The U.S. Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said that is the boost it needed.
The U.S. excels in the "manufacturing intelligence part" said Dan Radomski of NextEnergy, based in Detroit, but companies are not able to find enough U.S. suppliers.
"The country has missed out on this opportunity in past years and the Europeans have been the ones to really build up their own renewable energy industry," AWEA spokeswoman Real de Azua said. "It's time for us to do that here."
Stimulus Might Help Wind Turbine Industry
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), signed into law in February,
contains provisions for renewable energy, including the Tax Credit for Investment in Advanced Energy. Consumers who purchase wind turbines will receive a 30 percent investment tax credit. AWEA predicts it will help the small-turbine market grow 40 to 50 percent a year.
The other provisions for renewable energy include renewable energy loan guarantees which created a temporary Department of Energy loan guarantee program for renewable energy projects. A three-year extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind energy was also included in the ARRA.
Denise Bode, AWEA CEO hopes the tax incentives in ARRA for renewable energy will "provide the capital needed to continue to build projects." She pointed out that because wind projects can be constructed quickly, "positive legislation from Congress will have immediate and visible effects."
Foreign-owned companies building factories in U.S.
Seven out of 10 top wind turbine manufacturers have manufacturing plants in the U.S., according to AWEA. In addition, there are hundreds of U.S. based companies manufacturing wind turbine parts. In March, the Dutch-owned Siemens opened a wind blade factory in Iowa which employees 360 people.
"The whole concept, I think, of foreign-owned is a misnomer," said Kevin Hazel, vice president of supply-chain management in the Americas for Siemens Wind Power U.S. "Siemens, with 85,000 employees [in the United States], are we foreign-owned? Or are we employing and adding to the economy here?"
Danish-owned Vestas is the world's leading turbine manufacturer. The company wants to obtain all the parts for its U.S. turbines from domestic suppliers. Four factories in Colorado will be launched this year to assemble key parts of a turbine. The factories will create thousands of jobs. It currently has over 1,800 employees in the U.S. and Canada and is expected to increase to 4,000 employees in the U.S. by 2010, when it plans to make all of its U.S. turbines in the U.S.
"Vestas is enhancing its U.S. supply chain," said Soren Husted, president of Vestas Nacelles.
"These new Vestas factories are important steps in helping the U.S. wind energy market move forward," said Roby Roberts, Senior Vice President of External Relations at Vestas Americas.
"Wind is positioned to help take a lot of those manufacturing jobs that have been lost, especially in the auto industry, and move them into the work we're trying to do, " said Roby Roberts, a senior vice president with Vestas.
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