Report: U.S. Continues to Lead the World in Wind Power Growth
On May 31, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released its first "Annual Report on U.S. Wind Power Installation, Cost, and Performance Trends: 2006," which provides a detailed and comprehensive overview of development and trends in the U.S. wind power market.
The report concludes that U.S. wind power capacity increased by 27 percent in 2006, and that the nation had the fastest growing wind power capacity in the world in 2005 and 2006.
"As we work to implement President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative by increasing the use of home-grown, clean, affordable and renewable energy, we are eager to continue the trend of increasing the use of wind power at unprecedented rates," said Alexander Karsner, DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. " With DOE's support, wind power is one of the most important, emissions-free sources of energy being deployed to address climate change and improve our energy security."
In 2006, for the second straight year, the United States led the world by installing 2,454 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity, enough to power the homes in a city the size of Philadelphia. The nation produced roughly 16 percent of the worldwide wind market, followed by Germany, India, Spain, and China.
The report specifically analyzes trends in the marketplace including wind power prices compared to wholesale electricity prices, project costs, turbine sizes, and developer consolidation. It also describes the increasing performance of wind projects, current ownership and financing structures and trends among major wind power purchasers. By collecting this information in one publication, the report will provide a valuable resource to industry participants, energy regulators, and state and local policymakers.
Some of the key findings of the report are:
- The United States is the fastest-growing wind market worldwide. There remains substantial potential for the expansion of wind power to achieve approximately 20 percent of the nation's generating mix.
- Texas, Washington, and California lead the United States in annual capacity growth.
- Wind power is competitive and has provided good value in wholesale power markets. Wind power has consistently been priced at, or below, the average price of conventional electricity (coal, nuclear, natural gas, etc.).
- The cost of turbines has risen since 2002. Higher costs have reversed the decline in total wind project costs and driven up the cost of generating wind power. Turbine cost increases have been driven by rises in input material and energy prices, and some shortages in certain turbine components.
- Wind project performance has increased sharply over the last several years. This has been driven in part by improved project siting and technological advancements.
- The wind market is in a period of transition. Electric utilities have shown increased interest in wind project ownership, and merchant wind power plants and sales to power marketers have become more common.
The report can be accessed in PDF format at the following link: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy07osti/41435.pdf. For more information on DOE's Wind Program, visit http://www.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro.
This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.