American wind now stands at 60 GW of installed capacity. Brazos Wind Farm, Fluvanna, Texas. Photo Wikimedia Commons

The American Wind Energy Association reports that its member companies installed 13.1 GW of generating capacity in 2013 — a record, and 42 percent of all new generating capacity in the nation. American wind now stands at 60 GW of installed capacity.

Much of the year’s construction was driven by the rush to meet the expected Dec. 31 expiration of the wind production tax credit, amounting to 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour. Congress renewed that tax credit at the last minute (after the last minute, as it turns out: It was packaged with the Jan. 1 fiscal-cliff compromise), but in the meantime, the industry suffered manufacturing layoffs in expectation of a sharp slowdown in 2013 construction.

Because of lead times for permitting, purchasing and planning, the wind industry will in fact fall off a construction cliff in 2013, or at least have to scramble out of a gulley. If solar installations grow at the same pace they did last year, the nation will put up about 5.5 GW of PV modules in 2013. And if wind construction slows, even temporarily, to 40 percent of its 2012 pace, U.S. solar construction may surpass wind construction for the first time in history. It will probably be a temporary crossing of trend lines. American wind is about to take a giant step offshore, and will resume exponential growth.

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