The US, once the world's greatest wind market, remains dormant. In 1996 just over 12 MW of new capacity was installed, a net increase of 5 MW once decommissioning of old plant is accounted for. Significantly, more wind capacity was installed outside California -- 7.4 MW in Vermont, Iowa and Michigan -- than inside. Information on California wind plant is sketchy, with observations that 500 or more Kenetech 56-100 turbines have been taken out of service. If this is the case, operating capacity in the Altamont Pass has declined by 50 MW or nearly 10% of that in 1994. 100 MW of US wind plant is outside California.
Wind, with over 5800 MW of plant commissioned, is now close on the heels of geothermal energy amongst the new renewables. Assuming a modest 25% capacity factor, wind saves about three million tonnes of oil, or 5.5 million tonnes of coal every year. This is more than one-sixth of total coal consumption in the whole of South America. Europe, where some 400 MW has been installed since our last tally, has passed the 3000 MW milepost -- with Germany steadily stretching its lead.