Advanced Energy Perspectives

THIS IS ADVANCED ENERGY: Onshore Wind Power

Posted by Caitlin Marquis

Mar 1, 2017 10:01:00 AM

    

This post is one in a series featuring the complete slate of advanced energy technologies outlined in the report This Is Advanced Energy

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Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy of wind into electricity. With more than 46,000 operating turbines totaling over 62 GW of wind capacity, the United States ranks first globally in wind power generation and second in installed capacity. Large-scale turbines typical of wind farms range in size from 100 kW to several MW each, while distributed wind turbines range from a few hundred watts to about 100 kW, and typically power homes, farms, or small businesses. The upwind three-blade design dominates the industry for large-scale wind, while some smaller turbines feature novel designs.

Wind power is a mature technology used at over 900 wind farms across 39 states. Most wind power capacity is in large-scale installations, such as the 300 MW Minco wind farm in Oklahoma operated by NextEra Energy Resources. With 36 million MWh of electricity generated by wind in 2014, Texas ranks first for total wind generation. RES Americas constructed nearly 18% of the wind capacity in Texas, including the Keechi Wind Farm, which is owned by Enbridge and under a power contract with Microsoft. In 2013, wind-rich Iowa and South Dakota each produced more than 25% of their electricity from wind energy, demonstrating that high levels of wind generation can be integrated without jeopardizing reliability. Outside the wind-rich prairie states, OwnEnergy is constructing a 100 MW wind farm in Louisiana and developing an 80 MW project in North Carolina, the first wind farm in each state. Next-generation wind turbines with taller hub heights are expected to make wind a viable resource in all 50 states.

Wind is a free and abundant energy resource, and electricity generated from wind has very low marginal costs. As turbine efficiency has more than tripled in the past 15 years and the industry has scaled up, the cost of wind power has decreased by more than 90% since the 1980s and continues to decline. The levelized cost of new- build wind is estimated between $37-$81/MWh without subsidies, in comparison to coal ($66-$151/MWh) and gas combined cycle ($61-$87/MWh). Generators often sell wind power via fixed-price long-term contracts, or power purchase agreements (PPAs), which dropped to a national average of $25/MWh in 2013. Businesses are taking advantage of these locked-in low prices. Amazon Web Services signed a 13-year PPA for 150 MW of wind under construction in 2015 in Indiana by Pattern Energy. Wind power also supports over 100,000 jobs across the country, brings investment to rural communities, and provides an additional income stream to farmers and other landowners. Technology and market innovations have enabled ever-higher penetrations of wind energy without compromising grid reliability.

Learn more about wind, and other advanced energy fuels and technologies, in This Is Advanced Energy, a free report available below:

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Advanced Energy Perspectives is AEE's blog presenting news, analysis, and commentary on creating an advanced energy economy. Join the conversation!

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