Strong demand for wind power has boosted the development projects in United States to new heights.
The pipeline of wind farms under construction or in advanced development in the United States exceeded 30 gigawatts in the first quarter of 2018, a 40-percent surge over Q1 2017, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said in a new report.
Across the U.S., a total of 36 wind projects of a combined 5,523 MW announced that they either began construction or entered advanced development, AWEA said in its U.S. Wind Industry First Quarter 2018 Market Report.
The newly announced developments in Q1 boosted the total development pipeline of wind projects to 33,449 MW, up by 40 percent over the first quarter of 2017 and the highest level since this statistic was first measured at the beginning of 2016, according to AWEA.
This past quarter, customers also signed the highest ever quarterly long-term contracts—the so-called power purchase agreements (PPAs)—more than 3,500 MW.
“That’s the highest volume of PPA announcements in any quarter since AWEA began tracking them in 2013,” the association said.
“Our industry is consistently growing the wind project pipeline as leading companies, including utilities and brands like AT&T and Nestle, keep placing orders. Strong demand for wind power is fueling an economic engine supporting a record 105,500 U.S. wind jobs in farm and factory towns across the nation,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, said.
Despite the announced development projects, actual installation of wind power was significantly lower than in Q1 2017.
In Q1 2018, seven new wind farms came online across seven states, totaling 406 MW. This compares to 2,000 MW of capacity installed in the first quarter last year, which saw the U.S. wind industry’s strongest start in installation in eight years.
Currently, there are 89,379 MW of installed wind capacity in the United States—thanks to more than 54,000 wind turbines operating in 41 states plus Guam and Puerto Rico and enough installed capacity to power more than 27 million American homes, according to AWEA.
In 2017, the U.S. wind industry grew by 9 percent, adding new wind capacity of 7,017 MW, data by AWEA shows.
Of the total current installed capacity, Texas leads with 22,799 MW, followed by Oklahoma and Iowa.
Wind power generated a record 6.3-percent share of total U.S. electricity last year, with four states generating more than 30 percent of their electricity from wind power— Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Across the U.S., 14 states currently generate more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind. In Texas, the share of wind energy in the state’s electricity generation is 15 percent.
Over the last decade, the U.S. wind industry has invested more than US$145 billion in new wind projects, AWEA has estimated.
In the first quarter of this year, the record 3,500 MW in long-term contracts PPAs were motivated by lowered costs and stable energy prices, the association said.
Onshore wind is one of the renewable technologies where costs are dropping fast, according to the January 2018 ‘Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017’ report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
“Electricity from renewables will soon be consistently cheaper than from most fossil fuels. By 2020, all the renewable power generation technologies that are now in commercial use are expected to fall within the fossil fuel-fired cost range, with most at the lower end or undercutting fossil fuels,” the agency said.