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Published on June 16th, 2016 | by Joshua S Hill


US Wind Industry Highlights 66% Drop In Costs Of Wind Generated Electricity

June 16th, 2016 by  

The US wind industry has celebrated the 10th annual Global Wind Day this week by highlighting the 66% drop in the costs of wind-generated electricity.

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), over the past six years the cost of wind-generated electricity in the US has dropped by 66%.

“From the corn fields of Iowa to the windswept plains of Texas, by improving our technology and lowering wind power’s costs, we’re saving you money,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the AWEA. “With costs 66 percent cheaper than they were six years ago, wind power is on sale in the US. It’s a credit to American ingenuity and manufacturing. We’re celebrating Global Wind Day by sharing this good news far and wide.”

The AWEA also highlighted the important role the US wind industry is having on the country’s employment figures.

“Wind turbine technician is the fastest growing profession in the US, and has helped raise the US industry’s job total to 88,000 well-paying positions,” said John Kostyack, Executive Director of the Wind Energy Foundation. “This record-level job growth coincides with the US wind energy industry installing more new generating electric generating [sic] than any other source last year.”

This news was accompanied by the Global Wind Energy Council’s (GWEC) own celebration of Global Wind Day earlier this week, announcing that the number of jobs in the wind industry across the globe has now passed 1 million.

“We are getting bigger, better, and cheaper,” said Steve Sawyer, GWEC Secretary General. “The wind industry has witnessed record growth in recent years which not only helps the world to meet the climate goals agreed in Paris but also generates much needed new jobs and boosts local economies, to the tune of about US$ 110 billion last year.”

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I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.

  • Coley

    On the wind generation side of things, one thing puzzles me, with the advent of 6 MW + turbines! why do we see so many reports of newly completed or planned wind farms opting for turbines of 3/4 MWs ?

    • Most wind turbines are installed on land, where turbine size is limited. Road width and overpass heights limit the width of towers to 4.3 meters. Roads limit the size of the turbine blades, because it is hard to transport a 50m blade on sharp turns. There is a limited supply of the big cranes to erect the turbines over 3MW and they are very expensive, so it cheaper to stick with the 2-3 MW turbines. Also, zoning restrictions and NIMBY (not in my backyard) reactions make it harder to erect larger turbines. In the ocean, there are no roads to limit the size and economy of scale makes it cheaper per MW to install big 5-8 MW turbines. In the long run, I suspect that terrestrial turbines will also move to large turbines. Enercon is already building towers wider than 4.3 meters, by using interlocking prefab parts that can be transported over roads. GE has space frame towers that are built on site. We are now seeing tower heights up to 150 meters to capture the steadier wind with less turbulence. With towers costing more, it makes economic sense to put as big of a turbine on it as possible. In the long term, we will see multi-part blades that are assembled on site and in the longer term, we will probably see airships which transport the blades by air, so roads are no longer a problem.

  • Craig Teller

    This is well worth reporting. In other places, I’ve seen sly knocks against wind lately as if wind hasn’t been making as much progress as solar. But wind was affordable before solar. Both are very energy efficient these days and both are necessary going forward.

    We need to switch to solar, wind and other forms of alternative energy as quickly as possible. But the reality is that many fossil fuel companies will be around for a while longer. The key regarding fossil fuels is to make sure producers and investors pay for the mess they leave behind when the moment comes that fossil fuel usage actually begins to shrink. Worldwide, governments and taxpayers are already getting stuck with dirty sites or the bills to clean them up. It isn’t always the producers that are at fault. As one example, many disused, old power plants are stagnant sewers of petroleum sludge. I have personally seen one and walked around the perimeter of another after reading a news story.

    • Freddy D

      Yes, there’s so much BS and FUD out there that the facts and trends need repeating over and over.

  • Freddy D

    Love this article and this message!! There is way too much mis-information out there and this is such a positive and win-win message. Needs to be repeated regularly.

    What does the next 6 years hold for price declines? I doubt the industry is done innovating.

    • Frank

      Every time I have a discussion with people, I always tell them that the cost of wind dropped by 2/3 and solar by 80% in the lask 6 years, so 10 years ago you could argue about whether they cost too much, but not anymore.

  • jdeely

    These numbers need to be regional. Wind is cheap where it is being built – TX,OK,IA,NE etc… That’s great. Should be plenty of projects in all these areas to eliminate coal and serve as a hedge for Nat Gas.

    Are we also seeing prices drop in OR, IN, PA, GA etc??

    • Kevin McKinney

      Well, GA buys its wind power from OK currently, so…

    • eveee

      Taller towers are making wind viable in the south east states.


      • jdeely

        Thanks eveee – I wasn’t aware of this project. It will be interesting to see how costs turn out. Would also be great to see other projects like this in GA,AL,MS or LA so that we could compare costs versus importing wind from OK as Kevin mentions below. Am I missing out on any other Southeast projects or is this it? It looks like a “maybe” for a project in WV. I don’t see any others on EIA plan list.

        By the way, I found an article on the NC wind farm you cited – looks like judge has dismissed final lawsuit. Could be live by EOY. http://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article83987862.html

        • Frank

          This very cool. I wonder what wind speeds look like as you keep going up. GE sells a 155m tower for their 3 mw class turbines, and they have some looong blades on some of them. Other manufacturers probably too. I think what the ones they are installing were 2013 models, which I’m sure were new when they were planning and ordering.

        • eveee

          Hi jdeely. Thanks for the link. Wind is new to the southeast because older 80m wind maps didn’t show much promise. With heights reaching above 100m, things are changing and new wind maps show potential at height. I expect a mix of local and imported wind will aid efforts. There is also much more solar happening in GA and now FLA, with widespread support.

    • Harry Johnson

      The windy red states from ND to TX have incredible capacity factors near 40% in several states. This is what really drops the cost so location is important just like the desert SW is the solar hot spot. What now is needed most is a Federal push for a HVDC power grid buried along interstate highway corridors. It truly is a matter of national security.

      • Frank

        I think grid upgrades are one of the solutions that will be needed as we continue to add renewables, but not the only one.

      • JimBouton

        The issue we have in Texas is that the capacity factors drop in the summertime. Hopefully, that is where solar can come into play.

        • eveee

          Yes. That’s the ticket. Solar in summer, wind in winter. Wind is more variable daily, but using it for heating could be buffered with thermal storage. Solar has a regular daily pattern and matches air conditioning loads and peak daily summer loads well.

        • Bob_Wallace

          What’s coastal wind like in the summer in Texas? Temperature differentials between land and water should be higher.

          • JimBouton

            Texas calculates its energy resources for wind in the daytime hours in the summer. They rate West Texas wind at 12% of its nameplate capacity while Coastal wind is rated at 55%. Solar is currently rated at 100%, but once it goes past 200 MW (which happens this year when we add in 1.2 GW of solar in 2016), then it should fall to 80%.

            The percentage is based on the average available capacity during the highest 20 peak load hours for each preceding three-year period.

            Thus, 200 MW of Coastal wind is considered to provide 110 MW, where 200 of West Texas wind counts for 24 MW. They use these figures to gauge how much MW nameplate resources they need for summer peaks.

            At the end of 2015, Texas had 12.2 GW of West Texas wind and 1.7 GW of coastal wind. In 2016, we will increase that by another 7 GW when you add in solar and storage.

            For the summer of 2016 (we are now entering in it), we need a peak demand capacity of 70 GW. Basically, renewables account for only 2.7 GW of our summer daytime capacity. Around 4%. Again, this is during the daytime, but it is when “all hands on deck.” We love our air conditioners in Texas.

      • solarone

        New Nebraska wind farms average near 50% capacity factors.

        • Harry Johnson

          Amazing! Nebraska has been slow but could soon sell huge amounts of clean power to Illinois and Missouri. Money is the great converter.

          • solarone

            See the chart below. The graph is monthly capacity factors for 2015 for two wind projects at the same site brought on line in 2012 and 2014. The newer project shows consistently higher capacity factors (learning!!!) that average 49.3% for the year.

          • solarone

            graph below…

          • OneHundredbyFifty

            Broken bow projects are not in NE’s best wind resource areas. I imagine the sites were selected due to better transmission line access. I found the hub height for BBI but cannot find it for BBII. I wonder if that is why the substantially higher CF. 100m towers (I bet BBII is taller than BBI) offer substantially higher CFs. 140m towers better still. Here is the wind resource for US for 100 m towers and you can see that BBII is located outside of NE’s best regions. https://handlemanpost.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/wind_speed_map_lg_100m.jpg

          • solarone

            Broken Bow I (3 miles NE of Broken Bow) and II (7 miles NE of Broken Bow) are both in Custer county in Nebraska where the average wind speeds are near 8.5 m/s.

            Broken Bow I was completed with 50 1.6 MW (80 MW total) GE turbines on 80 m towers in 2012. Broken Bow II was completed with 43 1.7 MW (75 MW total) GE turbines. I couldn’t find the tower height for this project.

          • Frank

            Nebraska could produce as many gwh of electricity with just wind power as the entire US uses in a year. I’m not saying that would be the most practical way to go about it, I’m just qualifying huge.

  • John Norris

    That’s a CAGR of -13%. Impressive!

    [0.87^6 =~ 44%]

    • Bob_Wallace

      Utility solar prices have been dropping a bit over 16% per year for the last three years. Renewables are getting more and more affordable and that’s going to make it a lot easier to leave fossil fuels behind.


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      • Frank

        The really great thing about that is that renewables are even winning in places where the emphasis is on groowth and development, and their pollution hasn’t yet gotten to the point where they have started to really care.

        • Coley

          Aye, sad that basic economics are the driving force rather than a desire to protect our enviroment, but if that’s what’s going to save the planet, crack on.

      • jdeely

        A recent look from GTM.

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