The U.S. has more wind energy powering its grid than any other country in the world, including China, according to a recent analysis by wind industry veteran Dr. James Walker and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
Some mistakenly believe that China has become the leading producer of wind energy, surpassing the U.S. in this sector. While it is factually correct that China has more megawatts installed than the U.S. – China has 90,000 MW installed compared to just over 60,000 MW for the U.S. – the better measure of effectiveness is the total amount of electricity delivered.
According to Walker, vice chairman of the board at EDF Renewable Energy and author of the analysis, the total amount of electricity, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), is a better metric to compare the wind superpowers.
‘Capacity (MW) measures wind turbine production and installation, but it is the electrical energy (kWh) delivered to the grid that powers our factories, businesses and homes,’ Walker notes.
Writing via AWEA's blog, Walker further adds that recent reports by the International Energy Agency and the Global Wind Energy Council shows that China's wind industry produced and delivered less than 138 billion kWh in 2013 or less than 20% of the 167 billion kWh that the U.S. produced in the same time.
‘This confirms what many in the wind industry have thought for some time: that by the important measure of energy delivered to the grid, the U.S. is the No. 1 wind energy producer in the world.’
Further, he says, the U.S. has been the world leader by this measure since 2008.
The analysis released by AWEA is part of an effort to demonstrate the effectiveness of the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit, two incentives whose futures are being deliberated by Congress.
Walker then listed other factors responsible for the success of U.S. wind energy.Â Â
- Project developers, while not infallible, have made special efforts to choose project sites to avoid and minimize wildlife and other environmental impacts. Projects cannot be financed without an assurance of access to transmission interconnections to deliver their output to market. These and other factors have meant that the over $120 billion worth of U.S. wind projects installed since the year 2000 are of high overall quality and reliability, ready to operate, on average, more than 95% of the time the wind is strong enough to generate power.
- Another key factor in the success of the U.S. wind industry has been that the government incentives and private-sector financing methods used here reward long-term production, not initial capital investment. The main government support mechanism, the PTC, is only earned for kilowatt hours actually produced and delivered during a 10-year period.
‘This performance-based policy has led to dramatic increases in the electricity output from individual turbines – turbines today have a nameplate capacity eightÂ times larger than a typical one in 1990, generating 17 times more electricity,’ writes Walker. ‘Unfortunately, Congress allowed the PTC to expire at the end of 2013, resulting in a 92% reduction in new wind farm installations in 2013 compared to 2012.’
Walker is urging Congress to pass an extension of the PTC as part of the EXPIRE Act in the lame duck Congress. Doing so, he says, will help the U.S. regain and maintain its momentum.