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The United States added 13.4 GW of wind power capacity in 2021, with nearly $20 billion of investments in new wind projects during the year, according to the latest report published by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory titled ‘Land-Based Wind Market Report, 2022.’
The cumulative wind capacity grew to nearly 136 GW by the end of 2021. Wind represented the second largest electric power source in 2021 at 32%, behind solar at 45%.
The growth in wind installations was driven by long-term improvements in the cost and performance of wind power technologies.
Despite the growth in wind installations during the year, the United States remained second behind China, with nearly 47.6 GW of wind installations in 2021. In terms of cumulative installations, the United States was a distant second to China, whose cumulative installations stood at 338.3 GW at the end of 2021.
Among the states, Texas installed the maximum capacity of wind projects in 2021, adding 3.34 GW of new capacity. Texas remained at the top with 36 GW of cumulative installed capacity at the end of 2021.
Although only two hybrid projects were commissioned in 2021, there were 41 hybrid projects in operation at the end of 2021, accounting for 2.4 GW of wind and 900 MW of co-located assets.
The report points out that out of the 13.4 GW of wind capacity installed in 2021, GE Wind accounted for 47% of the wind turbine installations, followed by Vestas (26%), Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (13%), and Nordex (13%).
Domestic manufacturing remained strong for some wind turbine components, but the U.S. wind industry still relies on imports, totaling $3.1 billion in 2021.
Tower imports came from Malaysia, Canada, South Korea, Mexico, and India. Mexico and India accounted for almost 50% of blade and hub imports, with Spain, Brazil, and China the next largest source countries in 2021. Over two-thirds of wind- generators and generator parts in 2021 came from Vietnam and Spain.
Independent power producers led the way in new capacity additions, accounting for 9.9 GW of installations out of 13.4 GW added last year.
The average nameplate capacity of newly installed wind turbines in the United States in 2021 was 3 MW, 9% larger than in 2020 and up 319% since 1998–1999. The average hub height of turbines installed in 2021 was 93.9 meters, 4% larger than in 2020 and increasing by 66% since 1998–1999.
The average tip height for projects that came online in 2021 was 158 meters. Turbine heights are expected to reach an average of 196 meters in the next few years.
According to the report, in 2021, 12 projects were partially repowered, involving 769 turbines that totaled 1.6 GW before repowering. The 1.6 GW of retrofitted turbines in 2021 declined from the previous two years when roughly 3 GW were retrofitted each year.
According to the report, wind turbine prices have dropped substantially since 2008. However, with supply chain pressures and rising materials prices, turbine prices generally increased in 2021.
The recent supply-chain pressures and rising commodity prices led to increased turbine prices in 2021. The recent average pricing was between $800/kW to $950/kW, roughly 5% to 10% higher than last year.
The lowest-cost projects installed in 2021 were located in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the western states (excluding California), with average costs of $1,350/kW and $1,380/kW, respectively.
The power purchase agreement (PPA) prices have not declined smoothly over time. The prices declined through 2003, then rose through 2009. Following that rise was a steep reduction and, more recently, stabilization and then an increase in PPA prices—partly due to supply chain pressures, including higher material prices and transportation costs.
The average wind levelized cost of energy (LCOE) declined from $106/MWh in 1988−1999 to $70/MWh in 2004−2005, before rising to $97/MWh in 2009. Subsequently, the average LCOE declined rapidly through 2018 to $34/MWh. The national average LCOE of newly built wind projects has remained steady since 2018 and stood at $32/MWh in 2021.
Long term prospects
The prospects for wind energy in the longer term will be influenced by the sector’s ability to improve its economic position even in the face of challenging competition from other generation resources, such as solar and natural gas. Corporate demand for clean energy and state-level policies will also impact wind power deployment, as will the build-out of transmission infrastructure and the uncertain future cost of natural gas.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently released two new data sets containing 2,000 U.S. wind energy zoning ordinances and 1,000 solar energy ordinances at the state, county, township, and city levels with corresponding spreadsheets and maps. The wind energy database includes setbacks—or the required boundaries where wind turbines cannot be installed. Taller the turbine, the larger the setback. It includes height and rotor size restrictions, noise limitations, shadow flicker limits, and utility-scale wind bans or moratoriums.
According to another report published by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the proposed solar, battery storage, and wind power project capacity lined up to connect to the electric grid across America had risen to 1,400 GW. The total capacity in the queues is growing year over year, with over 1,000 GW of generation and 427 GW of storage capacity as of 2021. Over 930 GW of zero-carbon generating capacity is currently seeking transmission access.
Rakesh Ranjan is a staff reporter at Mercom India. Prior to joining Mercom, he worked in many roles as a business correspondent, assistant editor, senior content writer, and sub-editor with bcfocus.com, CIOReview/Silicon India, Verbinden Communication, and Bangalore Bias. Rakesh holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). More articles from Rakesh Ranjan.