The demand for US wind energy surged through the first quarter of 2018, pushing the country’s wind development pipeline to over 33 gigawatts (GW), according to the American Wind Energy Association, which tracked new announcements of over 5,500 megawatts (MW).
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) published its US Wind Industry First Quarter 2018 Market Report this week, highlighting the continued demand for “affordable, reliable” wind energy across the United States. Specifically, AWEA tracked 3,560 MW worth of signed Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) by utility and non-utility customers — the strongest quarter for PPAs AWEA has seen since it began tracking them in 2013. AWEA also tracked new project announcements worth 5,523 MW for the first quarter, pushing the amount of wind power capacity in various stages of development and construction to a total of 33,449 MW — a 40% year-over-year increase and the highest level AWEA has seen since it has been tracking both categories in 2016.
“Word is out that wind power is an excellent source of affordable, reliable and clean energy,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “Our industry is consistently growing the wind project pipeline as leading companies, including utilities and brands like AT&T and Nestle, keep placing orders. Strong demand for wind power is fueling an economic engine supporting a record 105,500 U.S. wind jobs in farm and factory towns across the nation.”
However, it is also worth looking at the country’s cumulative and quarterly additions, which shows that the last few years have actually seen a decline in yearly wind capacity additions, and fluctuating quarterly figures as well.
US Annual and Cumulative Wind Power Capacity Growth
In the first quarter of 2018, the US wind industry only installed 406 MW of new capacity across a total of seven projects. Texas installed 200 MW of that total, followed by California with 131 MW, Michigan with 44 MW, and Montana with 25 MW. This brings the country’s cumulative wind energy capacity up to nearly 90 GW across 41 states (plus Guam and Puerto Rico), but one wonders at the sluggish pace of installation.
Looking back at 2017, the US wind industry installed 7,017 MW worth of new capacity — but 4,125 MW of that came online in the fourth quarter, highlighting the very up and down nature of wind energy in the United States. Specifically, looking over the AWEA’s previous quarterly reports, the US installed 2,000 MW of new capacity in the first quarter of 2017 while the developmental pipeline sat at 20,977 MW. The immediately-following quarter, however, only saw 357 MW worth of new capacity added while the pipeline jumped 23% to 25,819 MW. In the third quarter, the country’s wind energy pipeline jumped 14% and reached 29,634 MW, while new capacity brought online only amounted to 534 MW.
Turning back to 2018, despite the lethargic pace to installations in the first quarter as compared to the previous quarter, the US wind industry can now boast a total of 14,291 MW worth of capacity under construction and another 19,158 MW in advanced development. The combined 33,449 MW represented a 40% year-over-year increase for the first quarter. In the first quarter project developers announced that 1,366 MW of capacity had begun construction and another 4,158 MW had entered advanced stages of development. Unsurprisingly, 28% of this development is in the wind-rich Midwest, followed by 22% in the Mountain West, 20% in the Plains states, and 19% in Texas.
It will be interesting to see what comes of the continued increase in pipeline capacity and which quarter of 2018 will be the one to push 2018 capacity. The first quarter already suffered year-over-year, and unless the second or third quarters do something impressive — or even halfway impressive, as they did in 2015 — then it will be left to the fourth quarter again to drive 2018 capacity additions.
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