The United States was once again the world’s leading wind energy producer in 2015, according to recently released figures.
According to data published recently by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and the US Energy Information Administration, the United States continued to lead the world in terms of wind energy production during 2015.
The debate over whether the US or China is the leading wind energy country in the world was the focus of many a year ago, when James Walker, a member of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), contested the claim that China was in fact leading the way. His contention was that although China had more installed wind capacity, America generated more wind electricity. A few months later, GlobalData analyst Pranav Srivastava predicted that China would hold both titles as soon as 2016.
2016 is now here, but at least for a little while longer, the United States remains the world’s number one wind electricity producer.
Of course, the news hyped by the American Wind Energy Association sort of buries the lead, that Chinese installations, with a total of 30.5 GW worth of new wind installations, drove global installation figures past 63 GW in 2015, an annual market growth of 22%. This has brought China up past the European Union, with a total installed capacity of 145.1 GW worth of wind, compared to the EU’s 141.6 GW.
The annual US wind market reached 8.6 GW in 2015, thanks to a strong fourth quarter which saw more than 5 GW installed, bringing the country’s cumulative total up past 74 GW.
“Wind power is leading the charge in the transition away from fossil fuels,” said Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of GWEC. “Wind is blowing away the competition on price, performance and reliability, and we’re seeing new markets open up across Africa, Asia, and Latin America which will become the market leaders of the next decade. Wind power led new capacity additions in both Europe and the United States, and new turbine configurations have dramatically increased the areas where wind power is the competitive option.”
As mentioned, the US wind industry still generated more electricity than any other country. (Interestingly, the Global Wind Energy Council reports EU activity rather than individual countries, whereas the AWEA highlights individual EU nations.) Wind produced more than 190 million MWh in the US during 2015, which is the equivalent of enough electricity for around 17.5 million typical US homes. China was still close behind, generating 185.1 million MWh, followed by Germany with only 84.6 MWh.
“The US is blessed with world-class wind resources,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “We’re tapping into this homegrown resource more than ever thanks to American innovation and US workers building some of the most productive wind turbines in the world. Now more than ever, low-cost, stably-priced, zero-emission wind energy is keeping our air clean and cutting costs for consumers. American wind power is well on its way to supplying 20 percent of US electricity by 2030.”
The extraordinary discrepancy between capacity and generation is found in the fact that, even though China has almost double the installed wind capacity that the US does, “strong wind resources and production based US policy have helped build some of the most productive wind farms in the world.” Add to that some more basic connection issues unique to China’s burgeoning electricity network, and the US is currently still leading the way. Though China’s figures make it clear that it won’t be holding second place forever.
The US has been setting numerous national records of late as well. Late February saw the AWEA reveal that the US had again broken monthly wind generation and penetration records, “From the ERCOT grid in Texas north to the MISO grid in the Midwest.”
Add to that the news released today, thanks to information provided by the US Energy Information Administration, that 31% of Iowa’s in-state electricity generation was actually produced by wind during 2015. This is the first time that wind has supplied a US state with more than 30% of its annual electricity — though Kansas and South Dakota both generated more than 20% of their electricity from wind in 2015.
“We are proud of Iowa’s leadership in wind energy,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who also serves as Chairman of the Governor’s Wind and Solar Energy Coalition. “We’ve seen exponential growth in wind energy and the data released today reinforces what we’ve been seeing in every corner of our state. With potential to jump above 40 percent in the next five years, we are committed to building an even greener Iowa future that will provide our Iowa families with cleaner, renewable energy and job opportunities.”
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