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Wind Market Forecast: Sunny With a Chance of Disappointment

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Brace yourselves, pessimists: The latest wind market outlook for next year is a sunny one. The firm Emerging Energy Research said this week that it expects the national wind market to bounce back with a vengeance as soon as 2010. In a release about the firm’s report, senior analyst Matthew Kaplan goes so far as to predict it may be the “strongest year ever” for the U.S. wind industry, thanks to the effects of “the incentive-laced economic stimulus” and transmission buildouts finally reaching the market.


The next five years look especially bright for the small-wind turbine subset of the industry, as we noted last week, with the American Wind Energy Association expecting 30-fold growth for installed capacity of small wind (turbines of 100 KW or less) by 2013. For an idea of how just how wee small wind has been so far, those five boom years, AWEA forecast recently, would amount to a total capacity of about 1.7 GW by 2013. Big wind, meanwhile, is poised to get much bigger.

But the months ahead may still be brutal yet, according to EER. This year, wind capacity additions are expected to plummet 24 percent below 2008 levels (a record year), to just 6.5 GW. For 2010, the firm anticipates up to 9 GW of capacity to come online, another 11 GW in 2011 and 15.5 GW by 2020.


EER notes that a national renewable portfolio standard, included in the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill now working its way through Congress, is coming closer to reality. Kaplan notes that a mandate for 20 percent of power providers’ energy to come from renewable sources by 2020 “could have a huge impact,” especially since wind capacity is coming online faster than other renewables. But it’s still too early to bank on that boon coming through for the industry. The bill has several tough committees and horse trading sessions ahead before it makes it into law.


Fortunately for the wind industry, other factors are coming into play. Among them, EER cites planned transmission buildouts, recent investments in U.S. turbine factories even despite the downturn, and a continued expansion of wind projects by regulated utilities that are allowed to build and own their own energy-generation facilities.