Trio of DOE reports show strong outlook for wind power

The U.S. Department of Energy released three reports related to wind power on Aug. 23, which jointly show that falling prices and tax credits are contributing to increased installations of distributed, offshore, and utility-scale wind power.

Utility-scale wind is increasingly economical

The 2017 Wind Technologies Market Report, from DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, reported that $11 billion was invested in new wind plants in 2017, bringing the total utility-scale wind capacity to nearly 89 GW in the United States. Wind represented the third largest source of capacity additions in 2017, following natural gas and solar. A sizable portion of the new capacity, 2,305 MW, was installed in Texas.

The report pointed to two trends — decreasing installation costs and increasing capacity factors — as drivers of the continued development of the wind industry. In comparing the capacity factors of turbines still in operation, the report noted that the average 2017 capacity factor among projects built from 2014 to 2016 was 42.0%, an average of 31.5% among projects built from 2004 to 2011, and 23.5% among projects built from 1998 to 2001. Increasing size of turbines and improved placement both seem to contribute to the added capacity factor. Meanwhile, the report calculated the average capacity-weighted installation costs to be $1,610 per kW, which is nearly $800 per kW less than the average installation costs in 2009-10. The report also sampled projects under construction and predicts that this cost will be even lower in the coming years.

Distributed wind market reflects local distribution focus

Distributed wind resources picked up significantly in 2017, adding 83.7 MW of capacity, which is nearly double the capacity added from this group in 2016, according to the 2017 Distributed Wind Market Report from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Although most of the 3,311 new distributed wind installations are projects of 1 kW or less, approximately 93% of the new capacity came from projects of 1 MW or greater. Many of these projects, the report notes, are to serve utility loads on local distribution grids. The total capacity additions from smaller projects, 1.7 MW, shows a declining trend from 2015 to 2016, but the total the number of wind turbines sold increased in each of those years.

Iowa represented the largest portion of distributed wind capacity, with 65.3 MW added in 2017.

Offshore procurement moves ahead

Lastly, DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory released the 2017 Offshore Wind Technologies Market Update, which highlighted the details of the 25,464 MW of offshore wind in the project pipeline.

Most of the projects are concentrated along the eastern U.S., and many are still in early stages of approval and development. However, the report noted several significant steps taken to move projects forward, including 1,400 MW of projects in the Northeast that were competitively selected in 2017. The report also noted how states, including New York and Maryland, have built offshore wind plans into renewable portfolio standards and targets.

Read the full reports on DOE’s website.