Falling prices for wind power installation
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has released three wind energy market reports demonstrating that as wind installations continue across the country and offshore wind projects move beyond the planning process, technology costs and wind energy prices continue to fall. The reports cover three market sectors: land-based utility scale, distributed, and offshore wind.
Highlights from 2017 include larger, more powerful wind turbines and lower technology costs and wind power prices for on land and offshore applications, as well as US distributed wind capacity crossing the one-gigawatt (GW) threshold.
According to the 2017 Wind Technologies Market Report, prepared by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the US wind industry installed 7,017 megawatts (MW) of capacity last year, bringing total utility-scale wind capacity to nearly 89 GW. In total, 41 states operated utility-scale wind projects. Texas leads the nation with over 22 GW of wind capacity, while Oklahoma, Iowa, California, and Kansas have more than 5,000 MW. Another 13 states have more than 1,000 MW.
In 2017, wind energy contributed 6.3 percent of the nation’s electricity supply, more than 10 percent of total generation in 14 states, and more than 30 percent in four of those states—Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Bigger turbines with longer blades are enhancing wind plant performance. Wind projects built in the past few years have seen capacity factors increase by 79 percent compared to projects installed from 1998 to 2001. The average installed cost of wind projects in 2017 was $1,611 per kilowatt (kW), down 33 percent from the peak in 2009–2010. The US wind industry supported more than 105,000 jobs and saw $11 billion invested in new wind plants in 2017.
The 2017 Distributed Wind Market Report, prepared by DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, found that, in total, US wind turbines in distributed applications reached a cumulative installed capacity of 1,076 MW. This capacity comes from roughly 81,000 turbines installed across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam. In 2017, Iowa, Ohio, and California led the nation in new distributed wind capacity installed as a result of large-scale turbines installed by commercial and industrial facilities and electricity distribution utilities. Thirty-five percent of distributed wind projects installed in 2017 were at homes, and 25 percent were agricultural installations. US manufacturers of small wind turbines and their supply chain vendors are located in 27 states. Between 2015 and 2017, US-based small wind turbine manufacturers accounted for more than $226 million in export sales.
The 2017 Offshore Wind Technologies Market Update, prepared by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, found that the US offshore wind industry recently took a leap forward as commercial-scale projects were competitively selected in Massachusetts (800 MW), Rhode Island (400 MW), and Connecticut (200 MW). New York, New Jersey, and Maryland also have offshore wind projects in the development pipeline. The US offshore wind project pipeline has reached a total of 25,464 MW of capacity across 13 states, including the 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm commissioned in 2016.
In Europe—where most offshore wind development has occurred to date—recent offshore wind project auctions have continued the trend of developers committing to lower electricity prices for projects that will be operating in the 2020s. New offshore wind turbines are being developed with 10 to 12 megawatts of capacity (compared to an average capacity of 2.3 MW for land-based turbines and 5.3 MW for offshore wind turbines installed in 2017). As a result, demand is increasing for specialized ships that will be able to install these very large turbines in US waters. About 60 percent of the US offshore wind resource lies in deep waters. Developing a project in deep waters requires wind turbines on floating foundations. In the US, floating offshore wind projects have been proposed off the coasts of Maine, California, and Hawaii.