Wind power could break records this year

Source: Bu Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner • Posted: Sunday, November 1, 2020

The U.S. is on track to add more wind power this year than any other year prior, even amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s another sign of renewable energy’s relative resilience to the worst effects of the pandemic. While the renewable energy jobs have taken a huge hit and capacity additions worldwide are expected to dip this year, the sector is also expected to bounce back quicker than other energy resources, such as coal.

That’s because costs for wind and solar power are slated to keep falling, while corporate and government commitments to add more renewables to their energy mixes are growing massively.

Having a record year: In fact, the U.S. wind industry posted its best third quarter ever this year, commissioning 1,934 megawatts of new capacity, according to a report released yesterday by the American Wind Energy Association. In the first nine months of this year, the industry commissioned 72% more wind power than the same time period last year. AWEA expects 2020 could set the record for capacity installations in a single year.

The wind industry has been able to manage this because it came into 2020 prepared — not for a pandemic, but for a rush to get projects online before federal tax credits expire.

“For a couple of years now the industry has expected 2020 to be a big year,” said John Hensley, AWEA’s vice president of research and analytics. Because of that, companies already took “proactive steps” to hedge against constraints that already exist to bring projects online, such as supply chain delays and construction equipment availability.

Companies built “additional buffer” into their project timelines, Hensley said. “COVID, of course, ate up a lot of those buffers, but had they not been in place, things could have looked quite a bit worse than what they do now.”

Hensley also noted that safe harbor flexibilities offered by the Internal Revenue Service, a rare Trump administration assist to the renewables industry amid the pandemic, has also helped the wind industry weather any coronavirus-related delays

What the future holds: Hensley expects the U.S. wind industry to keep growing, and costs to keep declining, even if federal tax credits aren’t extended in the future. Over the past three years, wind project costs have dropped 6%, according to an amended 2019 annual report AWEA also released yesterday.

There’s also strong support for wind power coming from the corporate sector and state governments, both of which are announcing plans to procure bigger amounts of wind in the next couple years.

That’s particularly true in the burgeoning offshore wind sector. This year, New York and New Jersey both announced their second largest solicitations of offshore wind power. And just yesterday, the governors of Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland forged a new partnership to rapidly expand deployment of offshore wind power off their coastlines and remove regulatory barriers to project development.