Fair winds for American wind turbines

The total power of wind turbines deployed in the USA is growing, their productivity and dimensions are increasing, while the prices of the technology and the costs of producing electrical energy are dropping – these are major conclusions of the Energy Annual Report 2017 of the US Department of Energy (DoE).

Last year new turbines generating 7 GW of installed capacity appeared in the United States, which means that the total capacity of all wind installations in the country reached 89 GW. With 22.5 GW of total wind turbine capacity Texas has been the champion of the competition for many years. In 2017 new 2.3 GW turbines were installed in this state. Further positions of the installed capacity ranking are held by Oklahoma, Iowa and California. Investments in new capacities reached 11 billion dollars. Considering the pace of the installed capacity growth, only photovoltaics develops faster than wind turbines (8.6 GW last year).

US Still Behind Poland

Considering the share of wind turbines in the total installed capacity the US is in the 15th position in the world’s ranking with 7 per cent. World’s leader – Denmark – boasts of the result of nearly 48 per cent. What is interesting, Poland holds the 12th position in this ranking, with 8.5 per cent, but is the only of the 23 classified countries which reported a drop of the ratio of wind turbine capacity to the total domestic sector’s installed capacity. One can hardly find better evidence for the regression of the Polish wind turbine sector.

In 2017 in the USA wind turbines generated 6.3 per cent of used electrical power. In 14 states this share exceeded 10 per cent, while in four – it was over 30 per cent.

According to DoE, the capacity of the new wind turbines is growing significantly mainly thanks to increasing dimensions, particularly the rotor diameter. While in 2016 the average rotor diameter totalled 108m, a year later it was as 113m[1].

Wind turbine installations are becoming cheaper and cheaper. An average cost of 1 kW was 1,611 USD, which is 33 per cent less than in 2009-2010 – a period of peak levels of these costs.

Some states for, some states against

The attitudes to wind power vary among the states. Texas is traditionally the most wind turbine-friendly – it has the most of them and reports highest power increments.

The capacity of wind power plants is rapidly growing in the American Great Plains, in Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Minnesota – where conditions for wind turbines are excellent. “Green” California has lots of wind turbines but capacity growth is rather slim.

However, in states like Florida, Georgia or Alabama winds are much lighter, which directly translates into lower profitability[2]. Laws of some of these states favour photovoltaics much more. Still, there are many states that have very few or even no wind power plants. In addition to weather conditions, a lot depends on the attitudes of state authorities. Federal support for wind turbines in the form of tax reliefs is gradually fading out and these are state authorities that determine their own RES share, referred to as Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS.

It is also worth pointing out that all the data presented above apply to wind power deployed on land. The American offshore sector is still in its infancy; in the east coast only one, small offshore farm has been installed, though the plans are much more ambitious.

[1] https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2018/08/f54/2017_wtmr_data_file.xls

[2]     https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/5/2/17290880/wind-power-renewable-energy-maps