Environment Forum

Which way will the wind (power) blow in 2010?

windturbinesThe United States became the No. 1 wind power market in the world in 2008. But under the credit crisis in 2009, the building of new wind farms slackened and the United States ceded its top global spot to China.

With the demand for renewable energy still growing, the American Wind Energy Association is eyeing 2010 as a critical year. Here are some of their top trends to watch for:

Second to natural gas: Wind power generates only 2 percent of the U.S. electrical supply. But new wind power generation in the United States has been second only to natural gas generation in terms of new capacity built each year since 2005. Watch for the industry to work to keep that spot.

Wind turbines ratchet up the power: General Electric won a $1.4 billion contract in December to supply 338 turbines for a massive new wind farm in Oregon being built by energy producer Caithness Energy LLC. The size of the turbines — 2.5 megawatts — forecasts a shift to larger turbines, driven by economics, the wind group said. “Taller turbines with larger swept areas produce more power at a lower cost per kilowatt-hour.”

Market for small projects grows: The trade group predicts small wind projects for homeowners and small businesses will see record growth, fueled by an expansion of a 30-percent investment tax credit.

Wind power wants a place on your roof, too

Putting solar panels on your roof may be all the rage in California, but what’s a green homeowner to do in less sundrenched parts of North America?

How about powering your home or business with wind, for starters. And no, that doesn’t mean planting a 100-foot-tall wind tower in your backyard.

This week, Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Cascade Engineering launched a wind turbine aimed at residential and business customers. According to Jessica Lehti, the company’s senior sales and marketing manager, the Swift Wind Turbine is as soft as a whisper and fits on the side of buildings, making it “more zoning compliant” for urban and suburban settings.