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Since 2008, the wind energy industry in the United States has attracted more than $100 billion in private investment. While the first three quarters of 2013 were slow amidst uncertain due to uncertainty around legislative support, the fourth quarter of 2013 added more capacity than the first three quarters combined; and in 2014, that growth continued. The April 2015-published US Wind Industry Annual Market Report notes that the additions of capacity have spilled over into a record first quarter of 2015.
Construction projects totaling 12,700 MW of capacity have already started this year, adding yet another substantial total to the country’s 66,000 MW.  The US is the world’s second-largest market, trailing only China.
From a perspective of job impact, the U.S. wind industry has added 23,000 jobs in the past year, which represents more than 40% growth in employment. More than 73,000 jobs are now active in the US wind energy industry.
It looks more likely every day that the Global Wind Energy Outlook’s forecast for a doubling in US capacity between 2013 and 2020 to 120,000+ MW is not just accurate but perhaps too modest of a prediction. The more optimistic forecasts (e.g., 150,000 MW) may be where the industry goes. That achievement would off-set well north of a billion tons of CO2.
Globally, similar trends are emerging. Geosynthetics are playing a huge role, both on-shore and off-shore.
As hub heights near 150m and rotor diameters exceed 125m—enabling 7.5 MW per turbine (nearly double 12 years ago)—the weights of turbines are surpassing 200 tons. Off-shore turbines are being built at even greater scale and weight.
For on-shore installations, geosynthetics are needed to support construction (e.g., cranes) and provide long-term soil stability and dependable access (e.g., access roads). For off-shore installations, geosynthetics are providing scour protection to secure footings for the massive monopile engineering works.
The May/June issue of Land and Water Magazine included a feature story on geosynthetics in wind energy authored by Geosynthetica’s editorial team. Visit www.landandwater.com to sign up for the publication (print and/or digital versions).