This column originally appeared in the WINDPOWER show daily.
American wind power is in the midst of a Texas-sized boom to start 2017. The industry just posted its best first quarter in eight years, and put up a new turbine every two hours and 24 minutes over the year’s first three months.
So what top trends are emerging?
Strongest first quarter since 2009
During the year’s first three months, 2,000 megawatts (MW) of new capacity came online, more than the first three quarters of 2016 combined. The U.S. now has enough installed wind capacity to power 25 million American homes.
U.S. workers built 908 turbines during the first quarter, and that means a lot of business. Each turbine supports 44 years of full-time employment over its lifespan, so American wind power just supported nearly 40,000 years of full-time employment.
We’re about to build a Texas-sized amount of new wind power
Nearly 21,000 MW of new wind capacity is currently under construction or in advanced development, about the same amount online in Texas today.
As the country’s wind leader, Texas already has enough installed wind capacity to power over five million American homes, and wind jobs in the state top 22,000.
So the amount of new wind in the pipeline is a big deal.
North Carolina joins the party
North Carolina became the 41st state with a utility-scale wind project when Avangrid Renewables’ Amazon Wind Farm US East started generating electricity earlier this year. The project was the first built in the Southeast in 12 years, and offers clear evidence that improved turbine technology can help bring low-cost wind energy to more parts of the U.S.
Texas stays at the head of the pack
Although wind power grew from coast-to-coast during the first quarter, Texas kept its tight grip on the leader spot with 724 MW coming online.
The corporate buyer trend continued facing front and center in the Lone Star State too, with Home Depot buying enough output from a Texas wind farm to power 100 stores. Other deals included names like 7/11, T-Mobile and Facebook.
Kansas finished behind only Texas in new wind installations during the quarter. Nearly 500 MW of new in-state capacity came online, and the state will soon top 5,000 MW.
Grid operators continue to reliably integrate more wind power
The Southwest Power Pool (SPP), grid operator for 14 states across the Midwest, set a new high water mark by surpassing 50 percent wind penetration.
SPP’s new record offers further proof that wind power helps keep the lights on for America’s families and businesses.
Growth is expected to remain strong in the months and years ahead— according to the U.S. Department of Energy 10 percent of U.S. electricity could come from wind by 2020.