Clean Power

Published on August 8th, 2014 | by Silvio Marcacci


US Installs 835MW New Wind Energy So Far In 2014, 14.6GW On The Way

August 8th, 2014 by  

America’s solar market boom has outshined other renewables in recent news, but the latest wind industry update is a reminder new turbines can save money and boost economies across the country – despite doldrums caused by federal policy inaction.

835 megawatts (MW) of new wind energy capacity was installed across the United States during the first half (1H) of 2014 with 619MW coming online in the second quarter (2Q), according to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) U.S. Wind Industry Second Quarter 2014 Market Report.

This growth is more than the industry installed during the first three quarters of 2013 and boosts total installed U.S. wind capacity to 46,300 turbines and nearly 62 gigawatts (GW), with even more on the horizon – another 106 projects representing up to 14,600MW of additional capacity are currently underway in 21 states across the country.

Texas Leads America’s Wind Energy Surge

It’s no surprise that Texas not only led all states in wind growth with 400MW of new capacity additions, but also leads in ongoing construction with roughly 8GW of new wind turbines. The Lone Star state has long been America’s wind energy leader with 12,753MW total installed capacity, and a new transmission system upgrade is bringing wind power from West Texas to high-demand eastern cities, boosting the cost-competitiveness of clean energy.

But Texas isn’t the only state where wind energy is filling the sails of green economies. Nebraska installed 201MW and Michigan built 136MW across 1H 2014. Meanwhile, Iowa has over 1GW under construction, Oklahoma is building over 970MW, 870MW are underway in Kansas, and 780MW are in process across North Dakota.

Much of this growth is on the strength of long-term utility and corporate contracts. AWEA notes over 1,400MW of new wind power purchase agreements (PPAs) were announced so far in 2014, adding to the 8GW of PPAs signed in 2013.

In fact, 12 of America’s leading corporations recently urged energy suppliers to offer more renewable electricity and increase their ability to buy clean power, thanks to technology advances lowering wind energy costs. “Today’s great values on clean, low-cost wind power are encouraging utilities and major companies to sign more and more contracts for it,” said Tom Kiernan, AWEA CEO.

 Clean Energy Yes, But Also An Economic Boost

And the net result of all this wind industry activity has been an important one – more jobs and more local economic growth. Hiring has increased across 43 states with a stake in the wind industry’s manufacturing supply chain, and 71% of all U.S. Congressional districts have either a wind-related manufacturing facility, operational wind project, or both.

“The economic benefits of all these projects are significant,” said Emily Williams, AWEA’s Manager of Industry Data and Analysis. “They include U.S. manufacturing jobs, with many factories hiring new workers to meet demand and all the local benefits from capital investment of billions of dollars in rural America.”

The Looming Threat Of Congressional Gridlock 

But back to that pesky Production Tax Credit. The federal government’s yo-yo approach to wind finance policy is once again jeopardizing all this green economic growth.

AWEA credits the ongoing wind construction boom to rules finalized at the start of 2013 allowing any new project that started construction or invested 5% of capital by the end of 2013 to qualify for PTC tax incentives once it starts generating electricity onto the grid. But what happens after this stretch of good fortune ends?

The IRS is expected to issue further guidance on the PTC, notes AWEA, which could boost PPAs for projects currently under construction – of the 9.4GW new wind projects utilities agreed to contracts with, 3.8GW haven’t yet broken ground. And all this doesn’t even take into account how states can reap economic rewards from wind power as EPA power plant emissions reductions rules take shape.


Climate Victory wind power poster via CleanTechnica/Marcacci Communications

Ultimately though, it all comes down to a Congress mired in gridlock. While another PTC extension through 2015 is still alive in the U.S. Senate, it faces headwinds due to Republican opposition, which is ironic considering some of the strongest wind power states are also the most politically conservative, with the biggest potential for clean economic growth.

“We can double American wind power by 2020, and double (it) again by 2030 if Congress gets the rules straight…and continues to work on long-term policies that would provide a more predictable business environment.” said Kiernan.

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.

  • MorinMoss

    Why is Texas lagging on solar? Larry Hagman would be ashamed of his home state.

    • eveee

      Morin – That is odd isn’t it? Solar build out is fast and geographically erratic. Given that Austin just signed a 5c/kwhr PPA, it looks like it may take off.

  • eveee

    Someone mentioned longer blades that increase capacity factor as one of the driving forces behind lowered wind costs. Another is taller, modular towers and blades. Blades and towers are getting so long that transport is difficult. A newer tech promises to help on that front. The combination of taller, more transportable towers and longer blades boosts output and lowers costs, not to mention increases the extent of regions wind can be harnessed.

  • JSintheStates

    It (i.e., wind power) is a non-fossil fuel energy source. But you do realize that this changes the overall weather patterns of a given region! Elementary thermodynamics states that if you remove heat (i.e., temperature differential, wind) from one section of a closed system, the system itself will move towards equilibrium. Or is this all too advanced for you forward thinking energy conscious green power company engineers!

    • eveee

      You are late to the party. We already had a serious discussion about time travel. Get with the program and put your tin foil hat on.

      • djr417

        I keep forgetting- is the shiny side of the foil supposed to go on the outside or the inside of my hat?

        • eveee

          You should look it up and provide references so we can all benefit from your wisdom and insight.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Hedge you bet. Double up. Get twice the strength and make both side shiny.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Well, gosh and golly. Tiny, tiny impact.

      Now consider the degree to which we’ve changed the climate and weather of the entire planet by pumping in 26 gigatonnes of CO2 per year. Year after year after year.

    • Matt

      Yes a 2014 study was done and if you install a 78k 5MW turbine off the cost of New Orleans you could reduce the impact storms. Even to just do the gulf, east coast, and Caribbean we are talking 1-10M? The good new is that the storms would be less, fishing better, and even at 1M thats is 5 TW (name plate) 50% cap, 365day, 24 hour is 21900 TWh per year. Which is a bit more that the USA uses in a year.

  • Shiggity

    Yay IL, part of my energy is wind and my rate is <5 cents per kwh. Unfortunately, ComEd charges as much for distribution as the electricity rate 🙁

    • sault

      They want to maximize the amount of money they can squeeze out of their obsolete coal plants and grid infrastructure required to support them before they become stranded assets.

      • Calamity_Jean

        ComEd’s parent company, Excelon, has a big problem with several nuclear plants in Illinois that are quivering on the brink of being stranded assets now. When the company finally has to write them off, I expect to hear company executives screaming from Rockford to Cairo.

        With wind so cheap, I’ll be astounded if the nukes currently under construction in the US ever get finished. I’ll be surprised if any other coal power plants ever get started either.

        • Matt

          With the life span of FF plants and all the NG and coal plants build in the last 10 years there is no reason to build any more FF plants in the US, Europe, or OZ.

          • Calamity_Jean

            Well, there certainly aren’t any good reasons. I imagine there’s a bunch of bad ones.

    • eveee

      That much for distribution? Some utility is ripping off the ratepayer. DId you look at their justification for such high rates for distribution? It sounds like they convinced (hoodwinked) the PUC, are trying to sweep other losses and mistakes into the rates.

  • This is great news. I read the 2nd quarter AWEA report a while back. It was kind of depressing to see how the goofiness that is our political system put sand in the gears of completions. The ever rising plot of installs per year suddenly flattened. I totally understand this. A construction project needs lots of money in a relatively short period of time. Any upsets to financing puts a project on hold and fast. I’m wondering if there will be a point where project planning can ignore tax credits and move forward regardless. It’s understandable that a project with tax credits is more economically satisfying than one without them. But maybe, wind will just become such a force unto itself that congress’ dickering won’t even matter. Much of the farmland in states with high wind potential is privately held. Financing could all come from private investors. Many transmission lines are private/utility owned. Wind is free. At this point investors could simply push states and feds out of the deal. Now I sound like a libertarian, which I’m not.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “I’m wondering if there will be a point where project planning can ignore tax credits and move forward regardless. ”

      There’s a good chance we’ve reached that point. Back when wind was being installed like gang-busters the average PPA (2011 and 2012) was 4 cents/kWh.
      We have non-confirmed information that the PPA price for wind in 2013 fell to 2.1 cents/kWh. (We should know within a month whether that number is accurate.

      If the PPA for wind actually was 2.1c/kWh in 2013, that means that the non-subsidized price was under 4c/kWh.

      If 4c with a PTC worked great in 2011 and 2012, 3.5c without a PTC should work well in 2014 and 2015.

      eta: What we need, and seem to be getting, is for market forces to take over and replace fossil fuels with renewables. The idea is for government money get used to prime the pump. We may be primed when it comes to wind and close to that point for solar. I’ll be very surprised if solar needs subsidies once the current system runs out in 2017/2018/whenever.

      • Thanks, Bob. That was informative.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I had this open for Zach when you posted. I’ll copy it over for folks to read –

          “The cost of renewables is steadily catching up to the cost of natural gas and will soon beat it.

          According to a panel of researchers at the Windpower 2014 conference, continued improvements in wind and solar technologies are making them a threat to natural gas.

          Ryan Wiser, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, highlighted innovations in blade and rotor design. Advances in materials have allowed the design of longer turbine blades and rotors that can operate efficiently at lower wind speeds. Since 2012, a “massive proliferation” of these turbines has driven average capacity factor increases up by 10 percent at every level of wind resource. As a result of these advances, costs are falling; preliminary data shows that the average 2013 power purchase agreement was at $0.021 per kilowatt-hour.

          “These are not your grandfather’s wind turbines,” Wiser said. “They are not even your older brother’s turbines.””

          Wind was getting a 2.3c/kWh PTC for the first 10 years. On a 20 year PPA contract that works out to about 1.5c/kWh over the life of the contract. Worth a bit more than 2.3c/2 since the credit is bunched into the first half of the contract (time is money stuff).

          2.1c + 1.5c = wind now in the area of 3.5c/kWh.

          • Wow. This is awesome. The cost of natural gas will go up. There’s only so much conventional reserves left. Unconventional sources like shale has a fixed cost problem. Bio and waste sources are really trivial in all honesty. Important, but nothing compared to the 25 to 30 trillion cubic feet per year we burn. Drilling costs can’t really come down all that much. Well cost is always by the foot. Even with longer wells and economies of scale, presumably more gas for the buck, the cost is pretty fixed. O&G is desperately looking for new markets to raise the cost: LNG overseas sales, CNG for transportation, hydrogen, etc.

            The only thing stopping wind as a feedstock, as technology improves, is if Russia really does have that weather machine we were told about in the early 1970s. Or windmills suck all the energy out of the atmosphere forcing the planet to reverse rotation. Causing us all to fly off into space.

          • sault

            “The only thing stopping wind as a feedstock, as technology improves, is if Russia really does have that weather machine we were told about in the early 1970s. Or windmills suck all the energy out of the atmosphere forcing the planet to reverse rotation. Causing us all to fly off into space.”

            Any “weather machine” or any reversal of rotation would involve humans harnessing a level of energy on par with those very same phenomena. Materially affecting the weather on any given day would involve several orders of magnitude more energy than humanity is capable of mustering currently. And the Earth’s rotation was kick-started by an impact with a body the size of Mars (and the system has lost a lot of momentum flinging the Moon out to its current orbit). Therefore, reversing the Earth’s rotation would take several more orders of magnitude than affecting the weather.

            Sorry, but there’s no free lunch and every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If you were joking, it went totally over my head.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That whooshing sound you heard?

          • sault

            Sorry, I was flying off into space…where no one can hear you woosh!

          • You never heard of the soviet weather machine? I grew up in the 60s and 70s, during the height of the cold war. This was just one of the things we were taught to be fearful of.

            Weather Control as a Cold War Weapon

            Read more:

            And the whole conspiracy about windmills sucking all the energy out of the atmosphere:

            Ask the Weather Guys: Do wind farms modify climate?

            Read more:

            The answer is no. The questions come up all the time.

            I completely made up the bit about stopping the earth’s rotation. That would be bad, no?

          • Bob_Wallace

            As I understand, the friction would create enough heat to burn the planet to a cinder.

            I guess that would be a bad thing….

          • Real bad.

          • djr417

            So investing in marshmellow futures isnt a good idea?

          • Doug Cutler

            “Or windmills suck all the energy out of the atmosphere forcing the planet to reverse rotation. Causing us all to fly off into space.”

            This is totally daft. Clearly reversing the earth’s rotation would cause us to go back in time, not fly off into space. Didn’t you see the Superman movie?

            And that could be a good thing, too. We could land in a time before the big CO2 build-up and construct the windmills sooner.

          • Now that’s a solution I can get behind. We may have to worry about PV sucking the sun light out of the sky as well. I’m not being ironic. Just repeating the silliness that is anti renewables. We have politicians, peoples’ reps, who believe this stuff. Yikes!

          • Doug Cutler

            The psychology of belief is at play. For many, “tribal identity” trumps facts and logic every time. Easier to twist your head into a pretzel shape than admit you’re wrong about something.

            Yet for every so many credulous minds there’s a meme mercenary spinning this stuff out knowing full well of its true purpose, part of an increasingly rearguard action to delay the inevitable rise of the Green Dragon.

          • eliboston

            relax he WAS being ironic. The only danger from windmills is to the economics of dirty electricity generation.

          • eliboston

            Dirty energy also has a health cost problem not to mention the problem of the costs from damage to property, forestry, agriculture, and fishing.

            This is damage that the current corrupt laws let dirty energy scot-free, which amounts to huge in-kind subsidies. If coal, oil, and natural gas had to pony up the costs of what we all have to pay to make dirty generation of electricity possible they would go bankrupted.

            The cost of electricity generation includes what we pay because of the Koch brothers’ dirty coal for medical cost to treat bronchitis and asthma, includes damage from acid rain on property, agriculture, forestry, and includes devastation of on the fishing industry from thermal effluence in lakes rivers and ocean bays. For example power generation at Brayton Point Station (BPS) on Mt. Hope Bay has been implicated in the collapse of winter flounder in Mt. Hope Bay. By they way this may be one reason that this dirty power plant will be shut down in the near future.

            If one calculates the costs that we all pay subsidizing dirty fossil fuels then wind power is by far the most economical even if we have to pay for pumped storage to secure 24-7 supply of electricity.

            And we have not even mentioned the human pain and misery from life long pulmonary disease, premature death or even damage to car finishes.

          • sault

            It would be wonderful if we could repeal the exemptions to the Clean Air and Water Acts that fracking operations currently enjoy. Combined with more adequate enforcement of safety and other existing environmental laws, this would stem the flood of artificially cheap natural gas that’s putting a damper on renewable energy development. Sadly, the makeup of Congress and the upcoming elections don’t give me much hope that this will happen.

            While not all companies are bad, there are extreme pressures to cut corners in the industry:


            It’s unfortunate that things have to get this bad for people to start going to jail.

        • Ha, Bob and I were just discussing this.

      • JamesWimberley

        The problem is uncertainty. If there is a certain tax credit, that creates one ROI calculation. If there is no tax credit, it creates another (as in Chile). Either way, investors decide and move forward. But what if there is a 50% chance of a tax break being created or restored sometime in the next 5 years? Investors delay. Policy uncertainty is a great way of getting the least bang for the buck.

        • Bob_Wallace

          My guess is that if Congress doesn’t pass a wind subsidy bill by October then it’s all over.

          I can only see the House passing a subsidy bill if they do some vacation calculations and decide it would help them in the November election.

          My big guess is that federal wind subsidies in the US are finished. Especially if the 2013 2.1c PPA number is correct.

          • RobS

            What we need I one FINAL extension with phased withdrawal. Say 5 years with the PTC being cut by 20% per year, this will stop the yoyo policy impacts and provide some certainty for project developers. With ongoing cost reduction such a withdrawal would likely result in essentially no change in project cost as progressive PTC cuts fall vaguely in step with cost reductions.

          • sault

            The PTC phase-out should be accompanied by a phase-in of a carbon tax or similar mechanism to price in the external damages of fossil fuel pollution. Probably not going to happen for a while because the electoral map for Republicans is so friendly this year, though. It’s funny how those who are supposedly the most supportive of the free market have done almost everything in their power to keep it from operating efficiently, at least in the energy sector.

          • RobS

            Whilst in many ways I would love to see this, the down side is that any new subsidy or tax would just be used as ammo to perpetuate the myth that renewables can’t compete in a level playing field with fossil fuels. If a carbon tax never happens and subsidies and PTCs are phased out and renewables win on the “level playing field” which we all know is stacked heavily in fossil fuels favor then the anger of the fossil fuel lobby and their political lackeys will be delicious to watch.

          • eveee

            Salut- agreed. It would have far greater impact to remove the competitor subsidies. You would never hear the end of the oil and gas howling about the inhumanity if forcing those poor, sweet companies to make a living after being on ppt he dole for a century.

          • JamesWimberley

            I agree with Bob. If I am right about uncertainty, the no-PTC clarity will paradoxically lead to a recovery in investment. No crutches, take up your bed and walk.

          • Matt

            But it will not be a clear no more PTC we will have 2 years of still thinking on that.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Looks to me that we’ll have a tremendous amount of new wind coming on line in 2014. 12.3 GW under construction at the year’s end.

            Maybe the subsidy system is changing so that the annual spike will be starts in the 4th quarter as opposed to the old pattern of completions in the 4th quarter. But I also won’t be surprised to see wind’s subsidy not reappear.

            The battle will probably be between conservatives in the House from fossil fuel states vs. conservatives in the House from wind rich states. With the “Don’t spend any money on anything” conservatives in the House trying to bring our government to a screeching halt.

          • eveee

            They changed the rules to a must start construction by… Its confusing. I thought wind was supposed to halt construction. Instead its still going on. Warren Buffett says he’s in wind for subsidies only. Then he dumps billions into it in 2014 when it supposedly has no subsidy. I think the PTC is just disrupting the finance system. Now the system seems to be settling into a realization that wind is still cost competitive without the PTC. I really wish this would boomerang into a discussion of getting rid of gas, oil, and nuclear subsidies. Its crazy to talk about wind subsidies without seeing the 800 pound gorilla.


          • Bob_Wallace

            There’s one other possibility. It’s conceivable that the wind industry was told that subsidies will get passed this year, just not until after the election.

            I’m not saying that’s likely, but we need to leave the door open….

      • eveee

        We need to repeal all FF subsidies. They were old and stale 80 years ago. With wind having none, the other boys have no excuses.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I really doubt that will happen. We’re just going to have to kill off fossil fuels.

      • Mint

        3-4c/kWh is where I change my tune towards renewables, because that’s where it stops mattering if we need backup capacity alongside it or if that backup has to raise prices to compensate for lost business. At that price, the fuel savings alone are worth it.

        I’m surprised that regular wind turbines got here. I thought we’d need high altitude wind, like Makani power, to get raw material mass low enough.

        But I guess mass production can be a freight train. I remember talking to a prof about display tech, and he was telling me how it’s amazing that LCD took over, as it fundamentally seemed so inferior to other technologies. But industry got behind it and produced it for unbelievably cheap prices.

        When do you get the data?

        • Bob_Wallace

          Zach worked the back channels to see if the 2.1 cent PPA number could be confirmed. What he got back ( a few days ago) was that something should happen within a month. There was no “that number is wrong” part in the reply.

          I’m now pretty convinced that utility scale solar will drop below $1/watt in the next few years. That means that solar drops below 5 cents in most of the country.

  • DGW

    “It all comes down to a Congress mired in gridlock…”
    American voters are destroying our nation and the environment but really don’t seem to understand that.

    • Kevin McKinney

      *Some* American voters…

      • eliboston

        The political system has been corrupted by dirty money of the likes of the Koch brothers that buy election across subverting the freedoms guaranteed in our constitution. Dirty money in support of dirty energy.

    • They don’t seem to understand much of anything about the political situation.

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