U.S. wind industry passes new milestone, can power 13 million homes

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An American industry group says U.S. wind power developers are installing record-high numbers of turbines in 2012 — but that growth could drop if a production tax credit expires at the end of this year.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) says that in August, for the first time, the wind industry surpassed 50,000 megawatts (MW) of generation capacity. That’s reportedly enough to power 13 million homes.

Wind developers have added 4,728 MW of wind power so far in 2012 with another 8,430 MW under construction, a record for this time of year, said the AWEA report.

However, the industry is becoming wary because the federal production tax credit for renewable energy is due to expire at the end of this year. The credit has been continuously in place since 2005. And the AWEA says it helps create more than $15 billion a year in investment in U.S. wind farms.

In a recent press release, chief executive of AWEA Denise Bode said: “This is what a successful policy looks like when it’s working, but whether wind will continue to be a bright spot in the U.S. economy now depends on whether Congress acts to extend the production tax credit by the end of the year.”

There has been a proposal to extend the credit for projects that start construction next year. According to Reuters, it won bipartisan support from the Senate Finance Committee on August 2, as part of an overall “tax extenders” package. The AWEA said the bill awaits action by the full Congress, which is expected to come in its lame-duck session after the November U.S. elections.

Anticipating a drop in wind power installations, the AWEA says thousands of layoffs have already begun in the manufacturing and development sectors of the industry.

According to Reuters, the biggest wind power companies in the United States include sections of Florida’s NextEra Energy Inc, Germany’s E.ON AG, Virginia’s AES Corp, Spain’s Iberdrola SA and France’s EDF Group.

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