The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has established a tradition of taking a look back in December at the events that shaped the year in wind farm. Here's a look at just some of the many happenings that made 2011 yet another big year in the continued evolution of the industry.
1 – Iowa, South Dakota reach 20 percent wind farm penetration overall. U.S. wind energy industry observers no longer need look to Europe for examples of huge wind power penetrations. Both Iowa and South Dakota reached the important milestone of 20 percent of their electricity coming from wind power, a first for the U.S. And more projects are coming.
2 - Xcel Energy shatters wind barrier with 50 percent at one time.While Iowa and South Dakota lead the nation with their 20 percent wind penetration overall benchmark, a utility system in Colorado made some noise on the integration front as well. Investor-owned utility Xcel Energy set a wind power world record on the morning of October 6, when subsidiary Public Service Co. of Colorado got 55.6 percent of the electricity on its system at one time from wind power, as reported in the Denver Post. The leading utility for wind power on its wires, Xcel Energy is proving once again that large amounts of wind can be successfully integrated onto the grid.
3 - Cost drop: Wind power gets leaner and meaner. Wind turbine prices have dropped sharply in recent years, and a government report released in 2011 highlights that trend with some telling numbers. According to the latest edition of the U.S. Department of Energy's "Wind Technologies Market Report," turbine prices decreased by as much as 33 percent or more between late 2008 and 2010. As discussed in AWEA's most recent industry Annual Report, more efficient U.S.-based manufacturing is saving on transportation, and technology improvements are making turbines better and more efficient.