Q3 wind growth slows from 2015, but project pipeline swells to 20 GW

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, October 31, 2016

Wind energy developers added 895 megawatts of new production capacity in the third quarter of 2016.

The latest industry data released yesterday reflect a 44 percent drop from the same period in 2015, but more than the total capacity added in the first half of this year. It reveals an industry entering a phase of slower but steadier growth after two-plus years of recovery from a near collapse in 2013, when the industry’s primary federal tax credit lapsed.

At the end of September, wind power accounted for 75,716 MW of U.S. electric generation capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Texas accounted for 620 MW of the third-quarter additions, followed by Minnesota at 200 MW.

The industry’s growth trajectory is poised to move strongly upward over the next several years, with 20.2 gigawatts of new wind energy capacity under development, according to AWEA.

Demand for new wind energy is being driven by a variety of factors, including sharply falling costs for wind turbines, rising demand for carbon-free energy and a shrinking window for developers to take advantage of the federal production tax credit for wind energy.

“Wind has come from green to mainstream, and that’s because it has really become an irresistible deal, for big [electricity] purchasers and for everyone who pays an electric bill. And it’s becoming an even better deal all the time,” AWEA Chairman Chris Brown said.

AWEA selected Iowa to release its latest market report release because the state is one of the nation’s premier wind power success stories. Since adopting the nation’s first renewable portfolio standard in 1983, Iowa has become the nation’s No. 2 wind energy producer after Texas, with more than 6,365 MW of installed capacity.

Iowa also leads all states in the percentage of electricity produced from wind, at 35.8 percent of all in-state generation from July 2015 to July 2016, officials said. That’s 8 percentage points higher than the No. 2 state, Kansas, and more than 6.5 times the national figure of 5.4 percent.

Gov. Terry Branstad (R) joined representatives of Iowa’s two major electric utilities, MidAmerican Energy Co. and Alliant Energy Corp., to mark the state’s success in converting its abundant wind resource into $12 billion in energy investment and broader economic growth.

MidAmerican and Alliant together are investing roughly $4.6 billion in wind power projects in the state, including the 2,000-MW Wind XI development being built by MidAmerican at a half-dozen sites across the state and Alliant’s 500-MW expansion of its Whispering Willow Wind Farm in northern Iowa (ClimateWire, Sept. 6).

Iowa has also drawn three of the world’s largest internet technology companies — Facebook, Google and Microsoft — to locate large data centers in the state. All three companies cited Iowa’s commitment to renewable energy as a factor in their siting decisions.