By Jonathan Marshall
California is only the third largest state producer of wind power, behind Texas and Iowa, but evidently it tries harder. Last year it beat out every other state for the size of new wind installations: 921 megawatts (MW), far outstripping number two Illinois at 692 MW, according to a new report from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
Contributing to California’s great record were two projects under contract to sell clean energy to PG&E: the 78 MW Vasco Winds project by NextEra Energy Resources (repowering an existing facility in Contra Costa County) and the 102.5 MW Shiloh III project by enXco in Solano County, whose operation was formally announced this January. Shiloh III delivers enough energy to serve about 50,000 homes.
According to CalWEA, wind power in California now serves the needs of more than 800,000 customers and met 5 percent of the state’s electricity supply in 2011. California also has a strong backlog of wind projects totaling 847 MW under development, AWEA said in its latest market report.
Last August, PG&E announced a huge deal with NextEra Energy Resources for a 163 MW project in Tehachapi. It was approved Wednesday by the California Public Utilities Commission.
PG&E also has contracts to buy wind energy from two more major projects in Solano County owned by enXco, Montezuma II (approved last year) and Shiloh IV (still pending approval). Projects like these will help PG&E meets its goal of supplying 33 percent of its electricity supply from eligible renewable sources by 2020.
Looking at the national picture, U.S. wind industry installed 6,810 MW of new capacity last year, 31 percent more than in 2010, bringing total capacity to just under 50,000 MW. Another 8,300 MW are under construction. The industry worries, however, that its momentum may die out unless Congress extends valuable production tax credits past 2012. Stay tuned for a vigorous debate.
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