Wind becomes top U.S. renewable source for first time

Source: By Parker M. Shea, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2020

U.S. wind energy generation passed hydropower generation for the first time in 2019, making it the most used renewable energy source in the country, according to a report yesterday from the Energy Information Administration.

Annual U.S. wind generation reached about 300 million megawatt-hours last year, about 26 million MWh more than what was produced by hydroelectricity, EIA said. Wind capacity added 10 gigawatts in 2019, its second-biggest growth year.

Analysts say the production tax credit for wind — which was set to expire last year before Congress extended it — helped drive new wind capacity. The stagnation of new hydroelectric build-out in recent years also contributed to the shift.

“In short, given that wind has continued to add capacity while hydro has not, this cross-over was inevitable and it is unlikely that wind will hand back the spot to hydro in future years,” EIA analyst Richard Bowers said in an email.

That could change if hydro “has a high generation year in the next few years before the next 76 GW of wind capacity projected to come online by 2035 is completed and that high generation year happens to fall during a year where wind generation is low due to wind intermittence,” he said. However, he said that scenario is unlikely.

EIA’s report was published yesterday and included data for each month through November of last year. As of 2018, wind energy was 6.5% of total U.S. energy generation.

Total installed wind capacity surpassed hydro capacity in 2016, but actual annual generation from wind had never reached the top spot.

EIA reported last month that 18.5 GW of wind capacity is projected to come online this year (Energywire, Jan. 15).