One of the green laws making its way through Congress these days would require utilities to generate a given amount of power from renewable sources. This mandate moved a step closer to realization when a measure attempting to quash it was voted down in committee. If the bill becomes law, which appears likely at this point, it could provide further incentives to help spur the growth of America's wind power industry, an industry that has already enjoyed significant growth over the past few years. (See our related article, Home Energy Savings Add Up.)
IN PICTURES: 10 Ways To Prepare For Nature's Worst
U.S. Wind Power Industry Still Growing
Last year, the U.S. overtook Germany as the world's largest producer of wind-generated power. The country now has 28,206 megawatts of installed capacity in place, enough to power the needs of 22.5 million homes or the equivalent of 28 nuclear reactors. The U.S. has experienced a dramatic increase in new wind capacity investments over the last three years. From just $3 billion in 2005, capital expenditures on new capacity soared to over $17 billion last year. While the effects of the recession are likely to dampen investment to around $13 billion this year, the imposition of a clean energy mandate on America's power industry could help revive investment in clean, green power.
Although it's been watered down somewhat, the current version of the mandate would require power producers to gradually produce more green power starting with 3% of their output between 2011 and 2013 and rising to 15% between 2021 and 2039. The Obama administration has gone on record supporting a mandate as high as 25%.
Currently, the U.S. gets about 7% of its electricity from renewable sources, with wind contributing about 1.5%. Some utilities like Madison Gas & Electric, a regulated subsidiary of MGE Energy (Nasdaq:MGEE), are already getting about 15% of their total power produced from wind. That's a clear indication that wind power already makes good economic sense for power producers. (For more, read Utility Funds: A Bright Choice In Bear And Bull Markets.)
Turbine Makers Could Benefit
If the mandate does reignite growth for the industry, that would be welcome news to the makers of wind turbines. Top of the list would be General Electric (NYSE:GE) who, along with Demark's Vestas (OTC:VWDRY), holds the dominant U.S. market. Last year, GE sold about $6 billion worth of wind turbines, representing about half of the new U.S. capacity installed that year. Sensing the potential of the U.S. market, German engineering giant Seimens (NYSE:SI) recently announced that it plans to build a massive wind turbine manufacturing plant in Kansas. Another interesting play in the sector is Broadwind Energy (Nasdaq:BWEN), which manufactures wind turbine components. Revenues for this company soared by 51% in the most recent quarter.
The Bottom Line
The smart money is going green and wind-generated power is one area that has developed rapidly and should continue to expect strong growth in the years ahead. (For more, see The Industries Handbook: the Utilities Industry.)