New US wind power generation is likely to be lower in 2010 than the record level seen last year with growth in installed capacity resuming in the second half of the year, the head of wind turbine maker Suzlon Energy’s US operations said on Wednesday.
“I am pretty bullish on late 2010 and certainly 2011 and 2012,” Chief Executive Andris Cukurs said in an interview on the sidelines of the Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara.
“We just came off the biggest year ever as an industry last year,” he said. “The industry this year won’t be as big as last year.”
About 10,000 megawatt of new wind power generation came on line in the United States in 2009, the equivalent of about 10 coal-fired power plants and enough to serve over 2.4 million homes.
Those additions helped United States retain its crown as the world’s leading wind power generator, although the 35,000 MW of total installed wind power in the United States is only about 1% of the nation’s total power supply.
U.S. power producers are expected to continue to seek even more turbines in the coming years with states requiring that a greater share of their electricity comes from clean energy sources such as wind or solar.
Cukurs said the challenges facing the wind industry this year included difficulty in getting utilities to sign long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs).
Natural gas prices are “pretty low so utilities are reluctant to issue long-term PPAs at prices that make sense for developers,” he said.
The record new US wind power capacity last year came was a bit of a surprise as 2009 was marked by recession and a credit market shut down.
Cukurs said the US industry picked up pace in the fourth quarter.
“There was probably more turbines installed in the fourth quarter than I think anybody imagined,” he said.
The year has started off on a steady pace for the US business of Suzlon, an Indian wind power company.
“We are installing a turbine on average every day,” he said. “In the US, we are very busy.”
Cukurs said Suzlon will add 700 megawatts by the end of the year to the nearly 1,800 megawatts it has already installed so far in the United States.
Suzlon was the fifth-largest turbine maker in the world and No. 3 in the US market in 2008. But German industrial conglomerate Siemens has claimed that it overtook Suzlon in 2009 based on overall megawatt capacity installed.
Suzlon, which has a manufacturing plant in Pipestone, Minnesota, has ran into some problems last year in the US market, suffering reliability issues related to the blades on its 2.1 megawatt turbine. The problem included cracking that caused one blade to break off a turbine in Illinois.
The company retrofitted all suspect blades installed in the United States at a cost of USD 100 million.