Energy and Natural Resources

Wind Power Investments Reached $13B in 2016, DOE Says

09 August 2017

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Wind Technologies Market Report provides an annual overview of trends in the U.S. wind power market.

This year's report found wind power additions continued in 2016 with $13 billion invested in new wind power plants. In 2016, wind energy contributed 5.6% of the nation’s electricity supply, more than 10% of total electricity generation in fourteen states, and 29% to 37% in three of those states, Iowa, South Dakota, and Kansas.

Bigger turbines are enhancing wind project performance. Increased blade lengths, in particular, have increased wind project capacity factors, one measure of project performance.

For example, the average 2016 capacity factor among projects built in 2014 and 2015 was 42.6%, compared to an average of 32.1% among projects built from 2004 to 2011 and 25.4% among projects built from 1998 to 2001.

Low wind turbine pricing continues to push down installed project costs. Wind turbine prices have fallen from their highs in 2008, to $800–$1,100/kW. Overall, the average installed cost of wind projects in 2016 was $1,590/kW, down $780/kW from the peak in 2009 and 2010.

Wind energy prices remain low. After topping out at nearly 7¢/kWh for power purchase agreements (PPAs) executed in 2009, the national average price of wind PPAs has dropped to around 2¢/kWh—though this nationwide average is dominated by projects sited in the lowest-priced interior states (such as Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma). These prices, which are possible in part due to federal tax support, compare favorably to the projected future fuel costs of gas-fired generation.

The supply chain continued to adjust to swings in domestic demand for wind equipment. Wind sector employment reached more than 101,000 full-time workers at the end of 2016. For wind projects recently installed in the U.S., domestically manufactured content is highest for nacelle assembly (>90%), towers (65-80%), and blades and hubs (50-70%), but is lower (<20%) for most components internal to the turbine.

Continued strong growth in wind capacity is anticipated in the near term. With federal tax incentives still available, though declining, various forecasts for the domestic market show expected wind power capacity additions averaging more than 9,000 MW/year from 2017 to 2020.

To contact the author of this article, email david.wagman@ieeeglobalspec.com


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