There has never been a lack of good ideas when searching for ways to reduce America’s addiction to oil. Ethanol, wind and solar energy have all moved beyond being idle curiosities to mainstream realities.
Ethanol got its boost with the Blender’s tax credit that expired at the end of last year. The industry is on track to fulfill its federal mandate thanks to favorable policies.
Solar has experienced an expansion of its own. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, since the enactment of the Solar Investment Tax Credit domestic use of solar panels has increased twelve-fold. The cumulative solar capacity in the U.S. now exceeds 7,700 megawatts -- enough to power more than 1.2 million homes.
And wind energy production has had a banner year as everyone from manufacturers to installers got a lift when the Wind Energy Tax Credit was reinstated. It has made those who have anything to do with the industry realize the future looks bright every time the wind blows.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, or AWEA, the nation’s wind industry saw record-breaking growth in 2012 as a power provider. American wind power generation rose 17 percent last year and produced more than 10 percent of the electricity in nine states –up from just five states in 2011.
AWEA officials say wind power was the number one source of new generating capacity in 2012. Iowa ranked first with nearly 25 percent of its electrical power generated by the wind. South Dakota was a close second at nearly 24 percent.
Experts say the positive numbers are likely to continue rising as new investments and wind projects are started. Nationwide, wind energy produced 3.5 percent of America’s electricity in 2012, according to the wind energy advocacy group’s latest figures.
AWEA officials say U.S. wind farms are generating enough clean, affordable energy to power the equivalent of almost 15 million homes. Overall, the U.S. wind energy industry had its strongest year on record in 2012. The industry built more than 13,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity and leveraged $25 billion in private investment to complete turbine construction.
Statistics provided by the agency, show that for the first time wind became the number one source of new U.S. electric generating capacity, providing 42 percent of all new electrical generating volume last year. Renewable energy as a whole accounted for over 55 percent of all domestic generating capacity in 2012 with wind providing over 60,000 megawatts of cumulative power.
The building boom was spurred in January when lawmakers passed legislation that included the long-sought extension of wind energy tax credits, after having allowed it to lapse at the end of last year. Congress also changed the rules so projects only have to be under construction by the end of 2013 to qualify for the tax break, rather than be fully operational.