The breezes of good fortune have been blowing through the wind power business according to the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) annual report, released this week.

Despite a slowing economy and a precipitous drop in oil prices last year, the industry reports a 70 percent jump in jobs (to 85,000 employees) between the end of 2007 and the end of last year as well as a doubling of demand for small wind turbines (those that can power up to 100 kilowatts – the size used for homes and small buildings).

A total of 8,545 megawatts of wind power came on line last year, but the estimates for this year are decidedly more modest (due in part to tougher credit) at 5,000 new megawatts.

The industry organization still expects to report fairly robust numbers for the first quarter of 2009, says Kathy Belyeu, AWEA's manager of industry information. But, she cautions that the numbers might be misleading because many of the projects were simply held over from 2008.

"New construction starts have slowed quite a bit since last year," she says. "We do expect the industry to get back to '08 levels faster thanks to the stimulus money," but it might not happen this year, she notes.

Until then, the windiest-powered states? Minnesota and Iowa, which each get more than 7 percent of their electricity from wind power.

Image of a small wind turbine courtesy of m.gifford via Flickr