California overtook Iowa for the number two spot in wind energy production in 2012 according the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) fourth quarter report released Wednesday. AWEA chief economist, Elizabeth Salerno, talked about the numbers in an on-line presentation.
“Texas of course remains number one, now with over 12,000 megawatts installed. California and Iowa are number two and three. And one interesting note here is that California has regained its spot at number two in terms of total installed wind, surpassing Iowa, which has held that spot for the past few years,” Salerno says.
“So the two are over the 5,000 megawatt mark, but California is back in the second spot.” Iowa had been second in wind-power generation since 2008, but California installed 1,656 new megawatts of wind power in 2012 — which was second in new installation nationwide behind Texas.
Iowa was sixth among the top 20 for installing new wind power at 814 megawatts in 2012. AWEA research analyst Emily Williams says while California jumped over Iowa into the number two spot for overall wind production, there are some big differences between the two.
“There are a ton of people in California and California is getting its wind from in state, but also importing a fair amount of wind from the northwest,” Williams says. “Iowa has a lot less people, so in 2011 Iowa got approximately 20-percent of their electricity from wind power. California was I think around three or four percent.”
The industry as a whole saw a record 13,124 megawatts of wind power installed across the country in 2012. The pending expiration of the wind energy tax credit is part of the reason for the wind boom as companies sought to take advantage before it expired.
Salerno says the credit proved to be an important aspect of the growing industry. “One of the reasons we have such a large pipeline built up of a lot of projects in advanced development that were able to get to the finish line by the end of 2012, was because we had a long period, or semi-long period allowing the developers to build up a pipeline,” Salerno explains.
“They had a period of certainty and stability and that allowed those developers to make those investments that they needed to make, and build up their pipeline and so those projects were ready to go to be completed in 2012.” The wind energy credit was extended in the fiscal cliff negotiations.
AWEA officials were asked if the companies that build and supply the turbines were going to start hiring back workers who had been laid off because of the uncertainty of the tax credit. AWEA interim C.E.O. Rob Gramlich says ramping back up is still in the talking stages.
“There are a lot of conversations with companies, there is little in public thus far. I think there are a couple of press releases if you look about rehired employees,” Gramlich says. “But most of it is unreported conversations, jut what we are hearing when we talk to our member companies about how business is going. And we are getting a lot of good signs that there are a lot of contracts being discussed and negotiated.”
AWEA officials say new rules are still being written on the provisions of the tax credit extension, and it’s unknown yet exactly how it will impact the industry’s growth this year.
Iowa’s governor and congressional delegation pushed for extension of the production tax credit for wind energy during negotiations on the budget, saying the industry has created thousands of jobs in the state. They also cited the layoff of 400 workers at the Siemens plant in Fort Madison, and one hundred layoffs at the Clipper Wind Power plant in Cedar Rapids as examples of what would happen if the credit wasn’t extended.