Wind power blowing strong across U.S.
The U.S. wind power industry installed 1,100 MW of new capacity in the first quarter of 2011, entering the second quarter with another 5,600 MW under construction, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Construction data show almost twice the megawatts reported at this time in both 2009 and 2010. What's more, two thirds of this power capacity is locked-in with long-term power purchase agreements among electric utilities. The total wind fleet is now 41,400 MW, producing enough energy for 10 million homes when operating at peak capacity. The first quarter's new 1,100 MW capacity came online in 12 states, with some witnessing double-digit growth. States with the most capacity additions so far include: Minnesota (293 MW), Illinois (240 MW), Washington (151 MW), Idaho (119 MW), and Nebraska (81 MW). Of the 5,600 MW under construction, one-third of all projects reside in Oregon, Washington, and California.
Sales slide continues for CFLs
Despite the imminent phase-out of some incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescents (CFLs) do not appear to be a popular substitute. That's the gist of the most recent CFL lamps index survey compiled by NEMA: In the first quarter of 2011, sales retreated for the fourth consecutive quarter, registering a decline of 16.8% on a year-over-year basis. In contrast, incandescent lamp shipments performed better, boasting an increase of 6.4% over the previous quarter. Incandescent lamps remained the dominant consumer choice, increasing to a 79% market share — a jump of 1.1% over fourth quarter 2010. CFLs have lost the market share gained over the last three years, dropping to 21%, their lowest share since the fourth quarter of 2007.
U.S. photovoltaic production falls to 8% of global output
Photovoltaic (PV) technology generates electric power by using solar cells to convert the photons of sunlight directly into electric current. Although sunlight is a freely available global resource, the process of winning a bigger share of the worldwide PV market has turned into a competitive headache for the U.S. Though domestic production continues to rise, the U.S. now accounts for just 8% of global output, compared with 44% in 1996. Shrinking U.S. market share can be attributed to vigorous — and heavily subsidized — production capacity increases in Europe, China, Japan, and Taiwan. In Europe, where 77% of the PV market now resides, roughly 74% of installed PV is imported, with half of it supplied by China and Taiwan. For U.S. suppliers to capture a larger share of the global market through exports, technology gains will be key, say industry watchers. They also say that at home, policy measures such as tax credits and renewable electricity credits will be critical to stimulating U.S. solar markets.