AWEA reports wind power topped new construction in 2015

Wind accounted for more than 35% of new generating capacity installed during 2015, giving it a bigger chunk of the new construction than either solar or natural gas-fueled generation, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said Feb. 16.

The 8.6 (GW) of wind power capacity installed surpassed the 7.3 GW of new solar photovoltaic capacity and 6 GW installed by natural gas, according to data from AWEA and the recently-released Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) and Bloomberg New Energy and Finance (BNEF) 2016 Factbook.

The wind figure cited by AWEA is somewhat lower than the 7,977 MW in new wind installation in 2015 reported by the FERC Office of Energy Projects. But both the FERC infrastructure update and the AWEA figures show wind being the biggest source of new capacity installed during 2015.

FERC has reported that total new generation capacity installed from all sources during 2015 was 16,485 MW, which is down from the 19,425 MW installed during 2014. FERC did report more than 2,500 MW of new wind capacity being installed during December 2015.

Wind accounted for more than 35% of new generating capacity, while all renewable resources together provided 68% of the new capacity, according to the Sustainable Energy Factbook.

“Wind’s growth is being propelled by cost reductions of two-thirds over the last six years, which now makes wind the lowest-cost source of new generation,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan at the annual winter meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), in Washington, D.C.

After a strong finish last year, wind energy is off to a good start in 2016, with an additional 9.4 GW under construction, an additional 4.9 GW in advanced stages of development, and a predictable federal Production Tax Credit for the next several years.

AWEA also said, in its Feb. 16 news release, that while the U.S. Supreme Court has stayed implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan that the merits of the rule have yet to be litigated.

“Many utilities have already indicated that the stay will not affect their planned generation changes,” AWEA said in a fact sheet that touted wind as the “no regrets” solution for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

“Many recognize that carbon regulation is inevitable, as the Supreme Court has affirmed EPA’s authority and obligation to regulate carbon multiple times,” AWEA said. “With wind energy costs at an all-time low and the recent extension of key federal tax incentives for wind and solar, many utilities are locking in stably-priced wind purchases.”

The tax extenders “allow states to meet pending carbon dioxide regulations almost exclusively with zero-emitting renewables,” AWEA said.

In addition, AWEA also released a document citing the economic benefits of electric transmission upgrades that also benefit renewable generation such as wind power.

The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) recently released groundbreaking analysis that quantifies many of the consumer and reliability benefits of transmission, confirming analysis by other grid operators. SPP found that the transmission upgrades it installed between 2012 and 2014 alone create nearly $12bn in net present value benefits for consumers over the next 40 years, or around $800 for each person currently served by SPP or $2,400 per each metered customer, AWEA said.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.