The U.S. wind energy sector is one of the most important renewable energy sectors in the country. It is together with U.S. solar energy industry the fastest growing renewable energy sector in the country and also one of the biggest job creators.
In 2011, U.S. wind power capacity rose by 31% because developers hurried to take advantage of U.S. Treasury Department program that offered cash grants of as much as 30 percent of development costs. That program ended at the end of the last year.
Therefore, it was really no surprise that fourth quarter of 2011 saw 3,444 megawatts of new wind power capacity (more than first three quarters combined as the total installed wind power capacity for 2011 was 6,810 megawatts).
American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said that there are currently 8,300 megawatts of wind projects under construction because developers are trying to complete them prior to expiration of the Production Tax Credit which expires Dec. 31 2012.
The U.S. wind power future is still in the air because Congress has so far been very reluctant to speak about the prolongation of the Production Tax Credit which could soon result in wind energy developers moving to foreign countries with better incentives.
If Congress fails to extend Production Tax Credit this could also lead to the loss of thousands of jobs within the U.S. wind energy sector. Vestas, the large wind turbine manufacturer, already announced that it would fire 1,600 workers at its factories across U.S. if Congress fails to prolong the tax credit.