Record wind generation in the queue after 2018 boom

Source: Edward Klump, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2019

HOUSTON — The U.S. wind industry had record generation in its development pipeline at the end of 2018 even after installed capacity rose about 8% during the year, a new report says.

Over 35,000 megawatts of capacity were in advanced development or under construction in 31 states at the end of last year — a roughly 23% surge from a year earlier. That’s according to the 2018 “U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report” released today by the American Wind Energy Association.

The report says U.S. cumulative wind energy capacity totaled 96,433 MW at the conclusion of 2018, an increase of more than 7,500 MW from the end of 2017. The country will have enough installed wind capacity to supply 42 million U.S. homes once construction is done on new projects, AWEA says.

“We have hard work ahead of us to keep this momentum going, but our industry has a long track record of beating growth projections and driving down costs faster than analysts predict,” Tom Kiernan, AWEA’s CEO, said in the report. “We don’t expect this trend will stop any time soon.”

AWEA’s report puts a spotlight on the tangible gains that continue for renewable energy in the United States. That’s especially true in Texas, which led the United States with almost 25,000 MW of installed wind capacity at the end of 2018. AWEA discussed the report today in Houston, which will be the site of the WINDPOWER conference and exhibition in May.

“Texas has a long and storied history of energy production and as today’s report demonstrates, wind is an important part of the state’s energy success story,” Kiernan said in a news release. “In many ways, the Texas wind story is the story of American wind power.”

Today’s report says wind energy provides more than 20% of the electricity generated in six states: Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota and Maine. It also lays out some of the industry’s talking points as lawmakers mull future energy policies.

The 2018 report says the wind industry supported a workforce of more than 114,000 U.S. jobs. And it says American wind energy was responsible last year for more than $1 billion in payments to state and local governments and landowners. It also touted the interest in wind energy from corporations and utilities.

But the wind industry isn’t without question marks. One is how developers will adapt to the planned phaseout of the production tax credit, including how it will affect projects that start construction after this year.

In the new report, AWEA says the passage of a multiyear extension of the production tax credit in 2015 “provided necessary policy stability for the U.S. wind industry.”

And today, Kiernan touted a low unsubsidized cost for wind energy in the United States as expenses decline. He said that as there is a phasing out of the production tax credit, there probably will be a “softening” related to wind. But the AWEA CEO said wind should remain competitive with solar, gas and storage and is well-positioned for the future.

AWEA recently endorsed the proposed “Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act” from Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.).

“The flexibility and market efficiencies resulting from accelerated energy storage investment would spur new wind farm development and job creation,” AWEA said in a news release this month.

Kiernan told reporters today that his group is looking for state policies that encourage low-cost, stable support for wind. At the federal level, he said, there’s a need to focus on transmission, noting the massive build-out that occurred in Texas in the past.

He called on Congress in an infrastructure package to include transmission and guidance to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to push different regional transmission organizations to do joint planning when they do long-range planning. Kiernan also encouraged RTOs to create markets for reliability services that wind and other sources provide to the grid.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation has been campaigning against wind incentives and recently released a report on what it sees as the effects in Texas.

“Renewable energy subsidies have brought increases in wind generation which has lowered incentives to build the dispatchable generation that is needed to maintain reliability of the Texas electricity grid,” TPPF says in an online post.

But Kiernan applauded Texas’ approach toward wind during today’s media briefing. He expressed hope for the continuation of certain tax abatement policies, which he said helped to create an environment that allowed for billions of dollars of investment in Texas in the past.

“In states, we’re looking for economic environments that have low cost and that have stable, pro-investment policies,” he said. “And Texas very much provides that environment.”