Wind industry recovery in the US

After a rough year in 2013, the U.S. wind energy industry installed 3,600 MW in the fourth quarter of 2014 and 4,854 MW for the whole year. This is nearly five times more than the industry installed during its 2013 slump. 

 

 

The U.S. now has an installed wind capacity of 65,879 MW, with another 12,700 MW currently 

under construction and an additional 3,300 MW of power purchase agreements signed in 

2014. 

During the opening quarter of 2015, 131MW were installed (68 turbines). That 

brought the U.S to more than 48,000 turbines 

overall, according to the latest report by the 

American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

 

AWEA’s WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & 

Exhibition took place in Orlando, Florida, a state which is now home to 15 factories building wind turbine parts and supplies. Speakers at the show heralded the swift recovery of the industry.

 

“We continue to improve our technology 

and lower our costs, creating new opportunities 

for wind projects and job growth all across the 

country,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. 

“Wind turbine technology has advanced in just a few decades from the Model T era to more like that of a Tesla Model S. Advanced towers, blades and improved electronics to operate and maintain the turbines are all part of this revolution.”

 

He emphasized the renewed strength of the 

industry with a near record 13,600 MW worth of new capacity under development across 100 projects in 23 states. This “wind rush” amounts to $23 billion in private investment.

The falling cost of wind energy has attracted corporate and other non-utility purchasers such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, the Mars  Corporation, IKEA and Dow Chemical. IKEA  purchased two wind farms last year including a 165 MW wind farm in Texas. 

 

(Land area achieving a minimum 30% net capacity factor, based on lower specific power, or the amount of power produced in a given area, (150 W/m2) and a 110 meter hub height (Figure 2))

 

New wind resource maps from the National Renewable Energy Lab show the ability for advanced wind turbines to reach stronger winds higher above the ground. This can unlock a previously untapped wind resource area that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says could eventually bring 

wind energy development 

to every U.S. state.

 

"Wind generation has more than tripled in the 

U.S. in just six years, exceeding 4.5 % of total 

generation, and we are focused on expanding its clean power potential to every state in the country," said U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz during his keynote. "By producing the next generation of larger and more efficient wind turbines, we can create thousands 

of new jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as we fully unlock wind power as a critical national resource."

 

More than 1,000 U.S. wind turbines are already 

accessing higher wind resources with towers reaching 100 meters or more above the ground, rather than the 80 meter standard that had been the state-of-the-art for multiple years. Heights up to 120 meters or more are already common in Europe, allowing the stronger, steadier winds at that elevation to be tapped. At 110-meter hub heights, DOE expects the 

land area with physical potential for wind deployment in the U.S. to increase 54% (see maps below, found in Enabling Wind Power Nationwide), and at 140-meter hub heights, the potential land area would increase 67% (Figures 1 and 2).

 

Further advancement in turbine technology, 

including raising hub heights to 140 meters and lowering specific power, would open up an additional one-fifth of the land area of the United States for wind turbine locations, 

lighting up many parts of the country, 

especially the Southeast U.S.