The winds of change appear to be benefitting the U.S. energy sector, according to a report released August 14 by the U.S. Department of Energy. Secretary Steven Chu, in announcing the study entitled "2011 Wind Technologies Market Report," applauded the efforts of both government agencies and private sector entrepreneurs that led to the United States becoming the largest source of wind-derived power.
"This report shows that America can lead the world in the global race to manufacture and deploy clean energy technologies," Chu said in a press release. "The wind industry employs tens of thousands of American workers and has played a key role in helping to more than double wind power over the last four years."
The government data showed that the national wind-based power capacity increased by approximately 6,800 megawatts (MW) during 2011. This growth brought total production potential to a 47,000 MW, creating enough electricity, according to the Energy Department press release, to power roughly 12 million homes per year. The industry supports 75,000 jobs, ranging from maintenance personnel to operations managers.
Further boosting the U.S. renewable power markets is a surge in domestic manufacturing, which the Energy Department says accounts for roughly 70 percent of turbines, rotors and storage units used in wind farm construction.
However, Chu warned that government tax credits, which currently provide much-needed subsidies to growing power companies, are to set expire in 2013. He advocated long-term extensions to guarantee stability in the renewable energy industry, which would allow businesses in the field to grow without fear of funding losses. By doing so, Chu and other government officials have argued, more Americans can enjoy electricity produced from clean and homegrown sources.