Surpassing expectations: State of the US wind power market


The wind power industry in the US has been growing dramatically in recent years, and the rapid pace of development has made it difficult to keep up with trends in the marketplace. Yet the need for timely, objective information on the wind industry and its progress has never been greater.

As Figure 1 shows, the country added roughly 5300 MW of new wind power capacity in 2007 - more than twice the previous record set in 2006 - bringing the cumulative total to more than 16,900 MW. This growth translates into roughly US$9 billion (real 2007 dollars) invested in wind project installation in 2007. No other country, in any single year, has added the volume of wind capacity that was added to the US electrical grid in 2007.

Furthermore, for the third straight year, the United States led the world in wind capacity additions, capturing roughly 27% of the worldwide market. In cumulative terms, the US ended the year with 18% of worldwide capacity, in second place behind Germany, see Table 1. So far this decade, cumulative wind power capacity has grown an average of 27% per year in the United States, equivalent to the same 27% growth rate in worldwide capacity.



Interestingly, the average size of installed wind projects has grown substantially in recent years. Projects installed in the US in 2007 averaged nearly 120 MW, roughly double that seen in the 2004-2005 period and nearly quadruple that seen over 1998-1999. These larger project sizes reflect an increasingly mature energy source that is beginning to penetrate into the domestic electricity market in a significant way.

Becoming a significant contributor

Several countries are beginning to achieve relatively high levels of wind power penetration in their electricity grids. Focusing only on the 20 countries with the most installed wind capacity, Figure 3 (page 126) shows that by the end of 2007, installed wind is projected to supply roughly 20% of Denmark’s electricity demand (somewhat less than last year), 12% of Spain’s (up by 2.2% from last year), 9% of Portugal’s (up by 1.6%), 8% of Ireland’s (up by 0.4%), and 7% of Germany’s (also up by 0.4%).

In contrast, the cumulative wind capacity installed in the United States at the end of 2007 would, in an average year, be able to supply just 1.2% of the nation’s electricity consumption (up by 0.4% from last year) - the same as wind’s estimated contribution to electricity consumption on a worldwide basis.


Excerpts from: Surpassing expectations: State of the US wind power market by Mark Bolinger and Ryan Wiser, Published in Renewable Energy World September 4, 2008  The authors’ work on this article was funded by the Wind & Hydropower Technologies Program, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the US Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231. The Annual Report on U.S. Wind Power Installation, Cost, and Performance Trends: 2007, on which this article is based, is downloadable from

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