Friday, April 8, 2011

Wind provides 35% of All New US Generation since 2005 As Costs Drop

Ten years ago, did anyone think wind power would provide 35% of all new generation in the USA from 2005 to 2010 or that 40,181 megawatts of wind would be running today, enough for 10 million homes, and equal to 2.3% of all electricity? None of the top forecasts from the Energy Information Agency did, and the EIA had lots of company.  From the perspective of 10 years ago, wind's boom is extraordinary.

And the future for wind is one of growth in the USA, because the industry has driven down its costs and makes bigger, more efficient turbines.

In 2011, wind power is cost competitive with new gas and below the cost of a new coal plant.  According to the American Wind Energy Association, wind projects can be financed with an average power purchase agreement of 6 cents per kilowatt-hour.  Deals are being done a bit above and below that average.

Awea also reported that 5,600 megawatts of wind power is under construction around the country right now or twice the amount at this stage of last year.

Total national wind power capacity increased by 15% in 2010 over 2009, though the amount built in 2010 fell 50% compared to the record year of 2009, when an incredible 10,000 megawatts were constructed.

The amount of electricity coming from wind in 2010 jumped nearly 30% compared to 2009 as all the turbines built in 2009 made power in 2010.

Over the next 10 years, wind power will be a mainstream power production choice and will continue to provide a large part of America's new generation capacity.


  1. This is so exciting. I can't stand it.

    Here's what I wish I were better at explaining: why the intermittent nature of wind is not such a big issue. You know how they say "the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine" about renewables. of course that's true, but we live in a world where we have a portfolio of energy supplies. Maybe we always will have some need for fossil fuel sources, but we could significantly decrease the proportion (and, thereby, the pollution).

    Right? So the wind does die down. Fine. You crank up the old coal fired plant from the 5% capacity you've had it chugging at to 45% capacity and then when the wind picks back up you dial the coal plant back down.

    It's still major progress.

  2. Brady:

    The huge improvements in wind power and its costs are exciting. Wind in Denmark has been providing on average 20% of its power for a considerable time.

    Intermittency of wind is not an issue at all when it is providing less than 2% to 3% of a electricity control area's total electricity. Why? All electricity control areas must have back up power whether they have any wind or not. They must have reserves because all machines are "intermittent." No machine works all the time no matter what. Electricity control areas must back up their nuclear and fossil plants, because all machines breakdown and do so suddenly and without warning. These control areas have plants ready to step in. The reserves typically are sized to equal at least the size or be a bit more than the single largest unit on the system--a big nuclear or big coal unit. Then if the biggest power plant clicks off, the reserves are enough to click on. These reserves are called "spinning reserves." Spinning reserves are never nuclear plants and also not coal plants because neither technology can just be turned on quickly or off quickly. They are typically natural gas. Natural gas plants can ramp up in minutes and shutdown quickly. This characteristic of natural gas makes it a perfect match for wind and solar.

    As wind becomes more than 5% of a system, then the size of the spinning reserves will probably have to increase. Again it will be gas. The increase is not one for one typically. But there would have to be an increase in the spinning reserve as wind increases. At least today. The next major breakthrough is energy storage. Then wind power could be stored and dispatched as needed. Some solar thermal plants now store enough power so that they can be dispatched when the sun goes down. Technology is moving fast and in a clean direction. Exciting indeed.

  3. I thought the intermittency of all electricity power plants was brought home with the massive problems in Texas the week before the SuperBowl. The coal plants went down in the cold, but wind helped keep the problem from being even worse.