AWEA says utilities 'flocking' to wind

US utilities continue to “flock” to the wind business in the wake of record capacity additions in 2012, says the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), as it works to soften expectations that the industry is in for a sharp downturn this year.

The US added more than 13GW of wind capacity last year, including 8.4GW in the fourth quarter alone, as developers raced to beat the Production Tax Credit (PTC) deadline.

Most analysts expect the industry to sag significantly this year, given the amount of projects that were whipped through development last year. IHS Emerging Energy Research pegs 2013 additions at just 1.2GW, even as major developers like NextEra and EDPR see some opportunities from the PTC extension.

Some 66 US utilities either regularly purchased wind-generated electricity or owned wind assets outright at the beginning of 2013, compared to 42 just a year earlier, according to AWEA. And utilities “have continued to sign up for more” since the PTC extension.

“From Xcel Energy in Minnesota to OG&E in Arkansas, electric consumers are racking up the savings as a result,” says AWEA interim chief executive Rob Gramlich.

AWEA notes that the list of “non-traditional” downstream purchasers of wind power continues to diversify and deepen, with 18 industrial players, 11 school districts, and eight towns and cities signing on as long-term buyers last year.

Two states – Michigan and Pennsylvania – which are not in the top 10 for cumulative installed wind capacity, cracked onto the top 10 list for newly installed capacity in 2012.