In a first, wind energy became the No. 1 source of new U.S. electricity generation capacity in 2012, according to a report released by the Energy Department on Tuesday.
Wind energy accounted for 43% of new electric additions last year, adding more than 13 gigawatts of new wind power capacity to the U.S. grid, the report said.
That's double the capacity installed the year before.
But Energy Department officials warn that future growth is uncertain and they are urging an extension of production tax credits that have helped spur wind energy production and manufacturing.
“The tremendous growth in the U.S. wind industry over the past few years underscores the importance of consistent policy that ensures America remains a leader in clean energy innovation,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement.
Nonetheless, officials say they are committed to expanding renewable energy production under President Obama's so-called Climate Action Plan.
Tuesday's report shows highlights the growth in the wind power industry:
- Industry estimates peg the number of workers in the wind energy field to be 80,000.
- Wind energy now has the capacity to power all the homes in California and Washington state.
- Nine states now rely on wind for more than 12% of their total annual energy consumption.
- In Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas, that share rises to more than 20%.
Following the release of Tuesday's report, the Energy Department said it would host a Google+ Hangout with energy experts to discuss the findings.
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