Wind Energy: Killing it in 2012


The DoE in 2 reports documents the continued breakout growth of windpower in the US.The Three most important findings are that Tower capacity is continuing to keep growing with the average turbine almost doubling in capacity over the last decade. Year on year growth of installed capacity is growing by almost 90% to 13 GW installed last year and now a total of over 60 GW installed.  This rapid growth in capacity and utilization has resulted in long term power contracts at 4 cents/KWH which even including the production tax credit makes wind extremely competitive on the wholesale market. Over 9 states now pull over 10% of their electricity from wind and 3 are above 20%.

Windpower is starting to now become a major power source not just in wind states but overseas. Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas are now producing over 20% of their electricity needs from wind
while Denmark is now at 30% and Portugal, Spain and Ireland are approaching 20%. Unlike in Europe, Offshore wind has not yet come on line in the US.  2300 MW of offshore wind projects are  in the planning process but none have completed commissioning.  125 GW of wind is being planned for future projects but new projects in the interconnection queues have slowed, wether that is declining interest or the intermittency of the production tax credit.
Turbine sizes and costs continue to make positive gains.  Since 1998, Turbine rated power have increased almost 170%.  Turbine heights have increased 40% and diameters have increased over 90% as lower speed wind sites have begun to be harvested.  Price per watt of turbines are descending and approaching $1/watt.  Integration costs of wind continues declining as utilities and operators gain experience. Integration costs of up to 40% wind energy is floating between 0.5 and 1.2 cents/KWH and balancing reserves of only 15% of rated power appears needed to balance wind farms.
The outlook for windpower remains strong although project pipelines are a little slack as projects were accelerated to meet the 2012 projected PTC cutoff.  16 GW of projects are forecast over the next 2 years, and if finance costs remain stable these projects look sound.
Action remains to taken though to get windpower to stay on track for 20% of production by 2030.  That includes at least four things, First, the nation will need to invest in significant amounts of new transmission infrastructure designed to access remote wind resources. Second, to integrate wind power into electricity markets more effectively, larger power control regions, better wind forecasting, and
increased investment in fast-responding generating plants will be required.  Third, siting and permitting procedures will need to be designed to allow wind power developers to identify appropriate project locations and move from wind resource prospecting to construction quickly.  Finally, enhanced research and development efforts in both the public and private sectors will be required to lower the cost of offshore wind power and incrementally improve conventional land-based wind energy technology.



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