(Reuters) - The U.S. wind industry installed 2,000 megawatts of capacity in the first quarter, nearly four times the amount installed in the same period last year, as developers race to capture a lucrative federal tax credit that is gradually being phased out.
It was the industry's biggest first quarter since 2009, the American Wind Energy Association said in its first-quarter market report released on Tuesday.
Project construction and development activity is also robust, as the federal production tax credit for wind projects does not expire until 2020. Starting this year, however, the credit's value will drop by 20 percent each year for projects that start construction from 2017 through 2019.
There are 9,025 MW of wind projects under construction and an additional 11,952 MW in advanced development, AWEA said.
About a quarter of the megawatts installed in the first quarter are contracted to buyers outside the utility industry, including the U.S. Army, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google. Home Depot Inc and Intuit Inc also signed contracts for new wind projects for the first time in the first quarter.
Just a handful of companies represent nearly all the utility wind capacity additions since the beginning of 2016. They include Xcel Energy Inc, Berkshire Hathaway Inc's MidAmerican Energy, Alliant Energy Corp and DTE Energy Co.
Texas, the country's top state for wind power capacity, was the top location for wind installations in the first quarter, followed by Kansas, New Mexico, North Carolina and Michigan.
Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by James Dalgleish