Distributed Energy Resources

Consulting firm sees U.S. wind market adding 14.6 GW in 2020

The U.S. wind market will add 14.6 gigawatts of capacity in 2020, according to Wood Mackenzie’s latest North America wind power outlook.

The record-setting mark underlines the strength of the 23 GW pipeline Wood Mackenzie has identified as currently under construction or contracted for commercial operation in 2020, the consulting firm said on Sept. 12.

The phase out of the Production Tax Credit beginning in 2021 has developers rushing to complete projects in 2020, driving major bottlenecks in both logistics and interconnection queues, Wood Mackenzie said. “As a result, project delays are mounting, negatively impacting the amount and timing of wind capacity installations.”

Anthony Logan, the lead author of the report, said that although the PTC phase-out schedule has been in place since 2015, offtakers were slow to act on procuring new capacity, yielding relatively subdued installation totals in 2017 and 2018.

Logan, a senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie, added that deals with virtually every offtaker type have increased dramatically in the last six to 12 months.

“The lack of available logistical resources will begin to cause schedule rearrangements and delays that will grow more apparent during the first and second quarters of 2020,” he said in a news release.

Wood Mackenzie’s forecast assumes 6.6 GW of projects scheduled for 2020 will not reach completion by the end of this year but will connect to the grid in 2021.

The report estimates that roughly 1.5 GW of additional capacity will be cancelled outright – typically ahead of project construction – with any attached offtakers likely choosing solar PV resources for subsequent power purchase agreements to replace the lost generation.

Wood Mackenzie said that solar PV, which benefits from the 30% solar Investment Tax Credit, is beginning to compete more effectively with onshore wind on cost.

Logan said that in the coming years solar will maintain a marginal advantage over wind due to a 10% ITC offered to solar PV in perpetuity after the wind PTC phases out.

He said that a recent solar industry push to lobby for a 30% ITC extension would compound the impact of this and would be devastating for post-2021 wind demand. 

In the near term, Logan said while wind will remain competitive in key states through 2021, the negative cost impact associated with the PTC declining to 60% and then 40% of its original value will outpace cost of electricity reductions in 2022 and 2023. 

Wood Mackenzie forecasts that the U.S. will add 12.3 GW of wind power in 2021, before bottoming out at 5.9 GW in 2024.