The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Wind Technologies Market Report provides an annual overview of trends in the U.S. wind power market. Highlights of this year’s report include:
- Wind power capacity additions continued at a rapid pace in 2017: $11 billion was invested in new wind power plants in 2017. In 2017, wind energy contributed 6.3% of the nation’s electricity supply, more than 10% of total electricity generation in fourteen states, and more than 30% in four of those states—Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.
- Bigger turbines are enhancing wind project performance: Increased blade lengths have dramatically increased wind project capacity factors, one measure of project performance, and taller towers appear to be on the horizon. The average 2017 capacity factor among projects built from 2014 through 2016 was 42%, compared to an average of 31.5% among projects built from 2004 to 2011 and 23.5% among projects built from 1998 to 2001.
- Low wind turbine pricing continues to push down installed project costs: Wind turbine prices have fallen from their highs in 2008 to $750–$950/kW. Overall, the average installed cost of wind projects in 2017 was $1,610/kW, down $795/kW from the peak in 2009 and 2010.
- Wind energy prices remain low: After topping out at 7¢/kWh for power purchase agreements (PPAs) executed in 2009, the national average price of wind PPAs has dropped to around 2¢/kWh—though this nationwide average is dominated by projects that hail from the lowest-priced Interior region of the country (such as Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas). These prices, which are possible in part due to federal tax support, compare favorably to the projected future fuel costs of gas-fired generation.
- The domestic supply chain for wind equipment is diverse: Wind sector employment reached a new high of more than 105,000 full-time workers at the end of 2017. For wind projects recently installed in the U.S., domestically manufactured content is highest for nacelle assembly (>90%), towers (70-90%), and blades and hubs (50-70%), but is much lower (<20%) for most components internal to the turbine.
- Continued strong growth in wind capacity is anticipated in the near term: With federal tax incentives still available, various forecasts for the domestic market show expected wind power capacity additions of 8,000 to 11,000 MW/year from 2018 to 2020, with market contraction anticipated beginning in 2021 as those tax incentives are phased out.