WIND REPORTS FIND U.S. MARKET GROWTH, MORE POWERFUL TURBINES, LOWER PRICES

by Christian Roselund

A pair of new reports by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are showing the progress of both onshore and offshore wind in the United States. These reports show that the nation has reached 135,886 megawatts of wind power, with two states generated more than 50% of their electricity from wind in 2021. Additionally, they found that turbines are getting more powerful and costs for offshore wind are falling; the average capacity of new wind turbines is now above 3 megawatts and that the average cost of offshore wind has fallen to $86 per megawatt-hour.

This follows a particularly strong year for land-based wind; 2021’s 13.4 gigawatts installed was the second-highest volume to date, following 2020’s 17.2 gigawatts. This represented 32% of the new capacity additions during the year, surpassed only by solar which represented 45% of capacity additions. Additionally, developers have applied for interconnection for 247 megawatts of wind projects. However, land-based wind remains highly geographically concentrated in a band of states with very strong wind speeds situated between the Midwest and the Rocky Mountains. The following table shows that several states in this region have reached very high levels of wind penetration in 2021.

In 2021, the size and capacity of wind turbines also increased; the average turbine is now around 95 meters in height, 130 meters in rotor diameter, and more than 3 megawatts. Capacity factors are also increasing over time; the average 2021 capacity factor for projects built from 2014 to 2020 was 39%, compared to an average of 26% for projects build from 2004 to 2011.

The reports find that average installed costs for land-based wind have flattened out in recent years. However, for offshore wind the trend is different. The levelized cost of electricity for U.S. offshore wind fell 13% on average to $84 per megawatt-hour in 2021, and DOE notes that the mid-range estimate is for offshore wind prices to fall to $60 per megawatt-hour by 2030. The U.S. offshore wind industry is in its infancy, with only 42 megawatts of operational turbines in two projects. However, DOE counts 24 projects that have signed contracts for 17.6 gigawatts of total capacity. Of these only one has begun construction: the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind 1 project.

Source: Land-Based Wind Market Report: Edition (U.S. Department of Energy)

Source: Offshore Wind Market Report: 2022 Edition (U.S. Department of Energy)