AWEA Recaps Strong 2017: ‘Wind Delivered Big Results’

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The U.S. wind industry closed 2017 strong, delivering 7,017 MW of new wind power capacity, representing $11 billion in new private investment, according to the U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2017 Market Report, released today by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

Furthermore, 29 new wind farms totaling 4,125 MW came online across 16 states in the fourth quarter, the report says.

According to AWEA, the wind industry’s powerful growth is poised to continue in 2018 and beyond, delivering jobs and private investment to rural areas and factory towns. The pipeline of wind farms under construction or in advanced development totals 28,668 MW, representing a 34% increase over the end of 2016.

There is now 89,077 MW of wind power installed across 41 states – enough to power 26 million American homes, the report says.

Oklahoma surpassed Iowa in the fourth quarter to rank second in the nation for total installed wind capacity – illustrating continued strong development activity throughout the American heartland. Texas remains the national leader for installed wind capacity; it would be ranked sixth in the world if it were a country, the report says. With 1,179 MW installed, Texas also led the quarter for new wind capacity, followed by Oklahoma (851 MW), Iowa (334 MW), Illinois (306 MW) and Missouri (300 MW).

New power purchase agreements (PPAs) signed for wind energy totaled 710 MW during the fourth quarter and 5,496 MW for the year – a higher PPA volume than any year since 2013, says AWEA. All of the new PPAs in the fourth quarter were signed by non-utility customers, including first-time buyer Bay Area Rapid Transit, as well as repeat customers Google Energy, Facebook and Digital Realty. Non-utility customers have become a large and steady source of demand for wind power, but utilities continued to be the biggest overall customers, signing roughly 60% of the contracted wind capacity in 2017, according to the report.

Performance-boosting technological improvements spurred an increase in partial wind farm repowerings in 2017. AWEA defines partial repowerings as either a nacelle replacement, meaning the replacement of all major turbine components other than the tower and foundation, or a major retrofit, which entails the replacement of the rotor and blades and at least one major internal nacelle component. In total, the U.S. wind industry completed 2,136 MW of partial repowerings across 15 project phases during 2017. Partial repowering activity is expected to accelerate in the near term, AWEA adds.

Furthermore, momentum to scale up the offshore wind industry continued to build in 2017. There are now five offshore wind projects currently in advanced development, representing over 490 MW of future offshore wind capacity. In the fourth quarter, MHI Vestas invested $35 million in a testing facility at Clemson University in South Carolina for its 9.5 MW offshore turbine giant. In addition, just over a year has passed since the Block Island Wind Farm, America’s first offshore wind project, began operating, the report notes.

According to AWEA, state policy and federal policy remain critical factors as the offshore wind industry seeks the scale needed to grow a domestic supply chain and further cut costs. Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York have advanced policies as they compete for the first large-scale offshore wind project. At the federal level, the Department of the Interior’s decision to allow design envelope planning for offshore wind projects streamlines the permitting process and will allow greater flexibility for developers, says AWEA.

“Wind delivered big results for the U.S. economy in 2017. Building new wind farms keeps American factory and construction workers busy while breathing new life into farming and ranching communities,” comments Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “This American success story will continue – with the wind project construction and advanced development pipeline four times greater than the amount installed in 2017. That means tens of billions in additional infrastructure investment is on its way to the United States of America.”

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