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Despite significant challenges in 2010, the U.S. wind industry continued to make progress and lay a foundation for a strong return in 2011, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

"While the industry saw the all-too-real impacts of having no long-term U.S. policies toward renewable energy, the industry nevertheless made significant advances in 2010," says Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA. "Wind power supply chain manufacturers continued to announce new U.S. plants despite an uncertain economic climate. The industry reached over 50 percent domestic content for turbines installed in the U.S. In addition, advances were made in regional transmission plans, the market for smaller turbines grew 15 percent, and offshore wind took major steps on the path to the first U.S. installations."

The year closed out with Congress extending by one more year the Section 1603 cash-grant program for renewable energy, a policy that helped the industry emerge as a bright spot in the U.S. economy and keep 85,000 Americans working even at the depth of the recession, according to AWEA.

Highlights of 2010 included the following:

- The numbers posted by the U.S. wind industry in the third quarter of 2010 made for its slowest quarter since 2007. Once the year's final numbers are tallied, they are expected to show that China installed approximately three times as much wind-powered electricity as the U.S. in 2010, and Europe twice as much, as U.S. installations fell to just over half of 2009. Factors in the U.S. decline included an absence of long-term U.S. energy policies, resulting in an unstable business environment, and utilities being less eager to enter wind energy power purchase agreements.

- URV USA began work on what is believed to be the first foundry to be built in the U.S. in 40 years. A new Siemens nacelle assembly facility in Hutchinson, Kan., was also announced; that plant will employ close to 500 Americans. A new Nordex nacelle assembly facility came online in Little Rock, Ark., and Alstom announced an assembly plant in Amarillo, Texas.

- Driven by state renewable energy targets, as many as 14 states have installed over 1,000 MW of wind, and a total of 37 states now have at least some utility-scale wind power installed within their borders. Iowa, which passed one of the country's earliest renewable generation laws, got an estimated 20% of its electricity from wind in 2010, an increase from 14% in 2009, and on Oct. 28, strong winds pushed wind power to 25% of the electrical generation in Texas.

- U.S. wind energy remained as popular as ever with the American voter in 2010. A Harris poll in October 2010 found 87% of Americans want more wind energy, bearing out results in April 2010 from a bipartisan team of pollsters that found 89% support more wind energy, including 8% of Republicans.

- After nearly a decade of red tape, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) gave the go-ahead to U.S.' first offshore wind project in April. In October, Cape Wind LLC and DOI Secretary Ken Salazar signed the nation's first lease for commercial offshore wind energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf.

SOURCE: American Wind Energy Association

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