Recession slows U.S. wind power growth rate

LOS ANGELES Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:31pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The United States will add 6,000 megawatts in wind power this year, down nearly 30 percent from last year as the credit crisis slowed expansion of the renewable energy source, an industry group said on Thursday.

Wind power has been one of the fastest growing sources of power generation, and the 2009 additions are equivalent to about six coal-fired power plants.

"The lion's share of that was commissioned on or before the economy went south," Denise Bode, head of the American Wind Energy Association told a news conference.

Globally, the wind power industry will grow about 12 percent this year, said Steve Sawyer, secretary general at the Global Wind Energy Council.

The U.S. wind power additions in 2008 pushed the country ahead of Germany as the world's leading wind power generator. Still, at 25,000 MW, wind power is only about 1 percent of the U.S. total power supply.

China will overtake the United States as the No. 1 wind power market in 2009, said Sawyer, with an estimated 10,000 MW of turbines expected to come on line there this year.

The trade groups and executives from wind companies reiterated calls for the United States to set stable long-term policies to help support the renewable energy sector.

The U.S. Congress this year extended until 2012 tax credits for the wind industry that help make new projects economically viable, although manufacturers have been lobbying for longer-terms supports.

"This is not a way to maintain many local jobs and also make the investments by investors like us in a sustainable way," Peter Brun, director of government affairs for Danish wind turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems.

Vestas, which earlier this year reduced its U.S. workforce because of declining orders, plans to increase the number of jobs in the United States to 4,500 from the current 2,000 jobs, Brun said.

Similarly, Iberdrola plans to invest more than $6 billion in the United States over the next three years, said Carlos Gasco, head of Iberdrola Renewables' prospective unit. Iberdrola Renewables is a unit of Spain's Iberdrola SA.

Others like Suzlon Energy Ltd and Nordex USA, a unit of Germany's Nordex AG, have invested in setting up U.S. manufacturing plants for wind turbine parts.

(Reporting by Laura Isensee, editing by Matt Daily and David Gregorio)

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