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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released two new reports noting the nation's record growth in wind power last year.

According to the reports, the U.S. continues to be one of the largest and fastest-growing wind markets in the world. In 2012, wind energy became the No. 1 source of new U.S. electricity generation capacity for the first time, representing 43% of all new electric additions.

The first report, conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, finds that over 13 GW of new wind power capacity was added to the U.S. grid last year. That is nearly double the wind capacity deployed in 2011.

The DOE says this boost helped U.S. total wind power capacity surpass 60 GW at the end of 2012 - representing enough capacity to power more than 15 million homes each year, or as many homes as in California and Washington state combined. The country’s cumulative installed wind energy capacity has increased more than 22-fold since 2000.

The report also finds that nine states now rely on wind power for more than 12% of their total annual electricity consumption; wind power in Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas contribute more than 20%. Additionally, Texas added over 1.8 GW of wind power last year, more than any other state. On a cumulative basis, the report says Texas remains a clear leader with over 12 GW installed at the end of 2012 - more than twice as much as California, the next-highest state.

The study says 2013 is expected to be a slow year for new capacity additions, due in part to continued policy uncertainty and project development timelines. While the report notes that 2014 is expected to be more robust, as developers commission projects that will begin construction this year, it also says that projections for 2015 and beyond are much less certain.

The second report, conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, focuses on the U.S. distributed wind energy market.

Compared to traditional, centralized power plants, distributed wind energy installations directly supply power to the local grid near homes, farms, businesses and communities, the DOE explains. Turbines used in these applications can range in size from a few hundred watts to multi-megawatts. Over the past 10 years, the U.S. distributed wind market has grown more than five-fold.

The report finds that distributed wind in the U.S. reached a 10-year cumulative installed capacity of more than 812 MW at the end of 2012 - representing more than 69,000 units across all 50 states. Between 2011 and 2012, the report says U.S. distributed wind capacity grew by 175 MW, with about 80% of this growth coming from utility-scale installations. Still, the report says most distributed wind buyers continue to choose small wind turbines, which have a rated capacity of no greater than 100 kW.

At the state level, Iowa, Massachusetts, California and Wisconsin led the nation in new distributed wind power capacity in 2012.





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