U.S. wind power installations drop in first half of 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The amount of new wind power installed in the United States fell by 71 percent in the first half of 2010 from a year ago as government support for the renewable energy source waned, the U.S. wind industry umbrella group said on Tuesday.

About 700 megawatts of new wind capacity were brought on line in the first six months of the year, although that figure was expected to grow in the second half since there were more than 5,500 megawatts currently under construction.

New wind power installation fell behind new coal-fired plant additions for the first time in five years, Denise Bode, chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association told a conference call.

U.S. wind installations had reached a record 10,000 megawatts in 2009, equal to the capacity of about 10 new coal-fired plants.

The industry had received a boost from the Obama administration’s 2008 Recovery Act, which gave the industry billions in tax breaks and loan guarantees as part of the package to stimulate the U.S. economy.

Bode called for the U.S. Congress to include a renewable energy standard that would require a percentage of the country’s power supply come from renewable sources to be included in the upcoming energy bill as a means to stimulating the industry.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hopes to release a pared-back energy bill on Tuesday that will focus on offshore drilling, but is not expected to include a renewable energy standard.

The lack of government support has dropped the United States behind both Europe and China in new wind power development, even though Bode said AWEA had counted a majority of 60 votes in the U.S. Senate supporting such a renewable energy standard.

“The manufacturing sector is making a decision right now whether they are going to come the United States or Europe or China,” she said.

General Electric is the largest U.S.-based manufacturer of wind turbines, and the second largest in world. It competes against Denmark’s Vestas, Germany’s Siemens and Enercon, India’s Suzlon Energy and China’s Sinovel and GoldWind .

Reporting by Matt Daily; Editing by Alden Bentley