Wind Power Strong, Solar Still Growing
A record 10,010 megawatts of new wind capacity was installed in the United States last year, accounting for 39 percent of new electrical generation, the American Wind Energy Association said in its annual report.
That raises the nation’s total wind energy capacity to more than 35,000 megawatts, or enough electricity to keep the lights on in 9.7 million homes. “Over the past five years, wind power and other renewable energy technologies, combined with natural gas, have provided over 90 percent of all new generating capacity in the U.S.,” the report’s authors stated.
Growth in solar power capacity, in comparison, has slowed but still shows some positive trends:
Total capacity installed for all types of solar energy grew by 5.2 percent in 2009, compared with 9.6 percent the previous year. But Rhone Resch, the chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association, which released the report Thursday, said that the overall number hid tremendous variation within the industry.
For example, he said, the residential market for photovoltaic panels (the type used on rooftops) grew at its fastest pace ever in 2009, and utilities’ demand for these panels also stayed strong. On the other hand, the large commercial market — companies putting solar panels on their rooftops — lagged. As a result, overall growth in capacity for photovoltaic panels stood at 38 percent last year, down significantly from 84 percent growth a year earlier.