Annual wind power capacity additions in the United States surged in 2015 and are projected to continue at a rapid clip in the coming five years. Recent and projected near-term growth is supported by the industry’s primary federal incentive—the production tax credit (PTC)—having been extended for several years (though with a phase-down schedule, described further on pages 68-69), as well as a myriad of state-level policies. Wind additions are also being driven by improvements in the cost and performance of wind power technologies, yielding low power sales prices for utility, corporate, and other purchasers.
At the same time, the prospects for growth beyond the current PTC cycle remain uncertain: growth could be blunted by declining federal tax support, expectations for low natural gas prices, and modest electricity demand growth. This annual report—now in its tenth year—provides a detailed overview of developments and trends in the U.S. wind power market, with a particular focus on 2015. The report begins with an overview of key installation-related trends: trends in U.S. wind power capacity growth; how that growth compares to other countries and generation sources; the amount and percentage of wind energy in individual states; the status of offshore wind power development; and the quantity of proposed wind power capacity in various interconnection queues in the United States. Next, the report covers an array of wind power industry trends:
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developments in turbine manufacturer market share; manufacturing and supply-chain developments; wind turbine and component imports into and exports from the United States; project financing developments; and trends among wind power project owners and power purchasers. The report then turns to a summary of wind turbine technology trends: turbine size, hub height, rotor diameter, specific power, and IEC Class. After that, the report discusses wind power performance, cost, and pricing trends.
In so doing, it describes trends in project performance, wind turbine transaction prices, installed project costs, and operations and maintenance (O&M) expenses. It also reviews the prices paid for wind power in the United States and how those prices compare to short-term wholesale electricity prices and forecasts of future natural gas prices. Next, the report examines policy and market factors impacting the domestic wind power market, including federal and state policy drivers as well as transmission and grid integration issues. The report concludes with a preview of possible near-term market developments.
This edition of the annual report updates data presented in previous editions while highlighting key trends and important new developments from 2015. The report concentrates on larger, utility-scale wind turbines, defined here as individual turbines that exceed 100 kW in size.1 The U.S. wind power sector is multifaceted, however, and also includes smaller, customer-sited wind turbines used to power residences, farms, and businesses. Further information on distributed wind power, which includes smaller wind turbines as well as the use of larger turbines in distributed applications, is available through a separate annual report funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).2
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Additionally, because this report has an historical focus, and all U.S. wind power projects have been land-based, its treatment of trends in the offshore wind power sector is limited to a brief summary of recent developments. Much of the data included in this report were compiled by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) from a variety of sources, including the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
The Appendix provides a summary of the many data sources used in the report, and a list of specific references follows the Appendix. Data on wind power capacity additions in the United States (as well as wind power projects) are based largely on information provided by AWEA, although minor methodological differences may yield slightly different numbers from AWEA (2016a) in some cases. In other cases, the data shown here represent only a sample of actual wind power projects installed in the United States; furthermore, the data vary in quality.
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