China leapfrogs U.S. wind power industry

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Chinese turbines are now harnessing more wind power than machines installed in the U.S., according to a trade group Monday.

For the first time ever, the Asian giant’s capacity –- the amount of electricity that can be generated using wind –- blew past the U.S. to soar 62% to 41,800 megawatts. American-based turbines can produce up to 40,180 megawatts, a 15% jump from the beginning of 2010, according to a report from the American Wind Energy Assn.


The U.S. wind market had a rough year overall, ending 2010 with 5,115 megawatts of new installations –- just half of the record amount put up in 2009. The fourth quarter saw just 3,195 megawatts erected, a slide from the 4,113 installed in the same period in 2009.

The association blamed short-lived government subsidies.

But after a key incentive, the 1603 federal Treasury grant program, was extended for a year in December, the wind industry began to perk up. As 2011 begins, roughly 5,600 megawatts of wind power capacity is under construction, the trade group said.

Some new projects being hammered out include electricity prices set at 5 cents or 6 cents per kilowatt hour, which would make wind power competitive with natural gas, the association said.

“Our industry continues to endure a boom-bust cycle because of the lack of long-term, predictable federal policies, in contrast to the permanent entitlements that fossil fuels have enjoyed for 90 years or more,” said Denise Bode, the group’s chief executive, in a statement.

Companies have built utility-scale wind projects in 38 states so far. Texas leads the pack with 10,085 total megawatts of capacity, followed by Iowa with 3,675 megawatts.

California, which features the windy Altamont Pass and Tehachapi regions, lags in third place with 3,177 megawatts installed.



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-- Tiffany Hsu