2014 Is Looking To Be A 7,000 Megawatt Year For Wind Power Capacity And Innovation

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This article was first published on Climate Progress
by Jeff Spross

According to Bloomberg, Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. is gearing up to drop $1.9 billion on new wind farms in Iowa. The investment might build as many as 656 new turbines by 2015, which would add as much as 1,050 megawatts of wind power capacity to the 2,285 megawatts the company already operates in the state.

GE's new Brilliant 2.5 megawatt turbine.  Image Credit: GE
GE’s new Brilliant 2.5 megawatt turbine.
Image Credit: GE

The project could also herald a revival in American wind power in general. The anticipated expiration of the production tax credit for wind energy drove a spike in installations in 2012, then a lull into 2013, and finally an anticipated ramp up now that the credit was extended for another year by the fiscal cliff deal.

And because the new extension merely requires projects to start construction by the end of the year to qualify — projects previously had to actually come online by the end of the year to benefit from the credit — GE now expects the full force of the revival to hit in 2014:

“Wind-farm developers including NextEra Energy Inc. (NEE) and Invenergy LLC may install 3,000 megawatts to 4,000 megawatts of turbines in the U.S. this year and as much as 7,000 megawatts next year,” Anne McEntee, GE’s vice president of renewable energy, said today in an interview.

The U.S. added a record 13,124 megawatts of turbines last year, outpacing natural gas installations for the first time, as wind developers raced to complete projects ahead of the Dec. 31 expiration of the production tax credit. Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS) andSpain’s Gamesa Corp Tecnologica SA (GAM) also expect new orders to pick up by the third quarter.…

GE has received orders this year for more than 1,000 megawatts of wind turbines, including one from NextEra for 100.3 megawatts announced today for a Michigan wind farm and Invenergy’s 215-megawatt deal announced last week for a project in Texas.

Also coming down the pike for wind power is the new version of GE’s Brilliant — a 2.5 megawatt wind turbine, featuring new smart systems and accompanying storage capacity. With both its own sensors and access to the internet, the Brilliant can take in weather forecast data, grid system information, and supply and demand patterns, and use all that top adjust everything from electronics operations to its blade positions. Combined with a new height and an increase of rotor length to 120 meters, these changes boost the new Brilliant’s efficiency by 25 percent over the last model.

The batteries will boast 50 kilowatt-hours of storage a pop, and be hooked up to the turbines from a nearby ground pad. The batteries will store up excess power generated when the wind is blowing the strongest and the turbines are operating at peak capacity, then distribute the power during off hours. This smooths out the power supply from the wind farms, thus avoiding a lot of the disruptions and reliability issues that came along with the fact that the wind does not always cooperate with the needs of us humans.

All told, this would continue the roll wind power has already been on in the United States: 2012 saw the installation of wind capacity outpace all other forms of energy production, and the U.S. and China led the boom in global installations that same year.


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