The United States installed more wind generation in 2012 than any other nation and Oklahoma now ranks sixth in the country in wind capacity, the federal Energy Department said Tuesday.
Norman-based Bergey Windpower Co., which makes wind turbines for homes, farms and schools, also ranked No. 2 in the nation for small-turbine manufacturers, according to the department's list of wind companies. The firm in the top spot filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, so Bergey likely will rise to No. 1.
The Energy Department report said U.S. utilities and power producers added 13,131 megawatts of wind energy in 2012, followed by China at 12,960 megawatts.
The United States had more than 60,000 megawatts of wind capacity by the end of 2012. It trails only China, which has more than 75,300 megawatts of installed wind capacity, the report said.
Wind beat natural gas for the number of new installed megawatts for utility electricity generation in 2012. Wind had about 43 percent of new capacity in the United States, followed by natural gas at 32 percent.
“As the fastest-growing source of power in the United States, wind is paving the way to a cleaner, more sustainable future that protects our air and water and provides affordable, clean renewable energy to more and more Americans,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement.
Large power producers added 1,127 megawatts of wind capacity in Oklahoma last year, bringing the state to more than 3,134 megawatts, the department said in its annual Wind Technologies Market Report. That's enough to power more than 780,000 homes and put Oklahoma in sixth place.
Texas leads the nation with 12,214 megawatts of wind, followed by California, Iowa, Illinois and Oregon.
The building boom last year came as a federal tax credit for wind generation faced an uncertain future. Congress renewed the production tax credit for another year at the last minute as part of negotiations over the so-called “fiscal cliff.” The credit, which offers generators 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity produced, now expires at the end of 2013. It also allows projects to start construction by the end of the year in order to qualify for the credit.
The report said uncertainty over the credit last year and the administrative changes mean 2013 will be a slower year for new wind capacity. Industry and government estimates range from 2,800 to 5,000 megawatts in new wind capacity in 2013.
“As a result, while many projects will certainly aim to meet the ‘start construction' deadline by the end of the year, 2013 is expected to be a slow year for new capacity additions, lowering not only U.S. but global growth forecasts,” the report said.
Last year was a tough one for many small manufacturers of wind turbines, said Mike Bergey, president at Bergey Windpower. In areas outside of the windy, central United States, small wind turbines compete with solar panels for many consumers. Bergey said Chinese dumping of cheap solar panels on the U.S. market hurt small turbine manufacturers as consumers opted instead for solar.
The United States last year instituted tariffs against Chinese solar panels, which should help small wind turbine manufacturers, Bergey said. China has since retaliated with its own tariffs on the raw materials used for solar panels.
Despite the industry turmoil, Bergey Windpower continued to expand its Norman operations. The company added employees as it shut down a Chinese subsidiary and moved production back to the United States. It also bought a firm in Mississippi that makes power inverters and moved it to Norman. The company employs 35 people and sells most of its wares outside the state or around the world.
“We wouldn't trade our position with anyone,” said Bergey, who also is president of the Distributed Wind Energy Association. “We've got a good start on business this year and we're bullish about next year. The economy is recovering and people are starting to buy big-ticket items again.”
Bergey said the company's top model, a 10 kilowatt turbine with a 120-foot tower, typically costs about $60,000. With tax credits and depreciation, many businesses can see payback on the investment in six to eight years, he said.