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Pa. wind energy installation double, but produce just 1% of electricity

| Sunday, April 21, 2013, 8:06 p.m.

Wind energy installations almost doubled in Pennsylvania last year, but the industry still provides only about 1 percent of the state's electricity, far behind Iowa, Texas and others.

Pennsylvania now ranks 16th in the nation in wind power, with 1,430 megawatts, according to the American Wind Energy Association's Annual Market Report for 2012, which was released this month.

Iowa leads the nation, getting 24.5 percent of its electricity from wind power in 2012. South Dakota was at 24 percent, Minnesota 14 percent, Colorado 11 percent and Texas just over 7 percent. New York was at 2.2 percent, and Maine led the Northeast at almost 6 percent.

Even some advocates of renewable energy wonder whether Pennsylvania will ever reach the wind energy levels of Iowa and some other leaders.

“My view is, probably not,” said George Jugovic, president of PennFuture, an environmental group. “I think it's just economics.” Jugovic supports wind energy and still believes it will grow here, just not at the scale of other states.

Iowa, Texas and a number of other states have sustained high winds and large areas of flat land that are relatively easy to build on, while states such as New York have the potential for extensive offshore wind farms. In Pennsylvania, the windiest areas tend to be on mountain ridges.

Wind has a potent competitor here and in the region: the tremendous amounts of natural gas that are being produced from the Marcellus shale, a gas-rich formation that is being tapped in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

In Pennsylvania, “it seems the majority is pushing natural gas right now,” said state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware. He introduced legislation in February that would require Pennsylvania electric companies to get more of their power from renewable sources by 2023. Current law requires companies to purchase 8 percent from renewable sources by 2021, but Vitali proposed increasing the target to 15 percent.

But the bill hasn't drawn widespread support in the legislature, and Vitali doesn't expect it to become law this year.

“We have not gotten support from utilities,” he noted, adding that the coal industry has opposed the bill, too.

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