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Wind power generating capacity has been growing quickly in the U.S. In 2007, wind capacity grew by 46%, adding 16 million megawatt-hours of electricity to our annual production. The wind turbines were manufactured by seven companies.

Company

Megawatts of Capacity Installed in 2007

GE Wind (NYSE:GE)

2,342

Vestas (OTCPK:VWDRY)

948

Siemens (SI)

863

Gamesa (OTCPK:GCTAF)

574

Mitsubishi (OTCPK:MHVYF)

356

Suzlon (NSE: SUZLON.NS)

197

Clipper (OTC:CRPWF)

47.5

Nordex (OTC:NRDXF)

2.5

Source: DOE/AWEA

The Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit was extended for another year, being attached to the $700 billion bail-out bill that passed on October 3rd. This assures that wind installation growth will be strong through 2009.

If the growth continues at the 2007 rate of 46% a year, installed wind, annual wind energy production will look like this, going forward:

Year

Electricity produced (terawatt-hours)

2006

32

2007

47

2008

69

2009

100

2010

146

2011

213

2012

311

2013

454

2014

664

2015

969

2016

1414

2017

2065

2018

3015

2019

4402

2020

6427

When will the growth peak? It depends on how wind energy will ultimately be used in the mix. Let's discuss a few possible scenarios.

First, the simplest scenario is the replacement of existing fossil fuel electricity generation, using the current grid. Studies show that about 20% of electrical generation can be replaced with wind without major alteration of our current grid. Since the United States uses about 4500 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, this amount would be 20% x 4500 = 900 terawatt-hours. In this case, we would reach the desired capacity around the year 2015, and installations could be expected to drop off after this.

If wind energy is used to power electric vehicles, and every gasoline car, truck, and SUV is replaced with a plug-in electric, then it will take about 1300 terawatt-hours of electricity to replace gasoline. Installed wind energy would reach this level around 2016.

If wind it is used to replace all uses of oil that can be replaced by electricity, it will take an estimated 1932 terawatt-hours. Installed wind energy would reach this level around 2017.

Last but not least, if technologies are developed that can store energy generated by wind, wind could generate all of the 4500 terawatt-hours per year that we currently use by about 2019.

Disclosure: No positions.

Source: Investing in Wind Energy: When Will Growth Peak?