Wind energy continues to mature as industry, AWEA official says

Wind power is maturing as industry, with more projects being built in new locations and operational costs declining, according to a July 12 presentation made by American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Eastern Region Director Andrew Gohn in Washington, D.C.

Gohn made his presentation to the annual Energy Information Administration (EIA) conference in Washing. A copy of his materials from the talk was recently posted on the EIA website.

The United States was the world’s No. 1 wind energy producer with 190.9 million MWh in 2015, based on EIA statistics. China was second at 185.1 million MWh, Gohn said.

When it comes to recent additions to the domestic power grid, wind was tops in 2015 with 34% of new capacity installations; solar had 29% and natural gas 24%.

The AWEA speaker said 2015 data shows 75 GW of wind power in the United States, led by Texas. The “hub height” for wind turbines is increasing, which is providing for greater economies of scale. Capacity factors are also rising, Gohn said.

While wind power has yet to make major penetration into the Southeast, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan is liable to change that, Gohn said.

Projections indicate that the CPP could trigger anywhere from 6,750 MW to 26,000 MW in wind development for Southeastern states. The Clean Power Plan would require states to draft plans slash power sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 32% by 2030. The plan is being challenged in the courts by a number of states and electric utilities.

New transmission projects in places like the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) should increase distribution of wind power.

In particular, the AWEA materials noted the Tehachapi and Sunrise Link projects in California and the CREZ projects in Texas.

A few months ago Congress expended the production tax credit (PTC) for wind until 2022. This should help smooth out the boom-and-bust cycle that wind has experienced during shorter extension periods, Gohn said.

Some of the leading names in corporate America are purchasing wind power. This includes the likes of Microsoft, Walmart, Google and Dow, Gohn 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.