What a year for wind


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The U.S. added 16.8 gigawatts of new wind power capacity in 2020, while project costs declined and performance improved, according to the Dept. of Energy’s annual report on the industry.

The 2021 Land-based Wind Market Report, prepared by the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, found that wind increased its share of the U.S. electricity supply last year to 8%, fueled by $25 billion of investment and the federal production tax credit.

And while turbines continued to get larger in 2020, due to improved plant performance, manufacturing and installation costs declined.

“Wind energy prices ­– ­particularly in the central United States, and supported by federal tax incentives – remain low, with utilities and corporate buyers selecting wind as a low-cost option,” said Berkeley Lab Senior Scientist Ryan Wiser. “Considering the health and climate benefits of wind energy makes the economics even better.”

The average installed cost of wind projects was $1,460/kW last year, down 40% from 2010. The cost of wind energy is declining, too, reaching $20/MWh in the wind belt of the U.S. and $30/MWh in the West and East.

Average capacity factor of projects built over the last five years was above 40%.

“Wind power capacity additions in the United States hit a new record in 2020, supported by the industry’s primary federal incentive—the production tax credit (PTC)—as well as a myriad of state-level policies,” the report’s authors wrote. “Improvements in the cost and performance of wind power technologies have also driven wind capacity additions, yielding low-priced wind energy for utility, corporate, and other power purchasers.”

The authors concluded that wind’s benefits to the grid, population health, and curbing climate change “far-outweigh” the costs.

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Author: John Engel

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