Energy Department Reports: Wind Energy Continues Rapid Growth in 2016

The Energy Department released three wind market reports demonstrating continued growth in wind energy nationwide. America's wind industry added more than 8,200 megawatts (MW) of capacity last year, representing 27 percent of all energy capacity additions in 2016. In 2016, wind supplied about 6 percent of U.S. electricity, and 14 states now get more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind. The reports cover the following market sectors: land-based utility scaleoffshore, and distributedwind.

Wind power capacity in the United States experienced strong growth in 2016. Recent and projected near-term growth is supported by the industry's primary federal incentive-the production tax credit (PTC)-as well as myriad state-level policies. Wind additions have also been driven by improvements in the cost and performance of wind power technologies, yielding low power sales prices for utility, corporate, and other purchasers. At the same time, the prospects for growth beyond the current PTC cycle remain uncertain, given declining federal tax support, expectations for low natural gas prices, and modest electricity demand growth.  

"The wind industry continues to install significant amounts of new capacity, and supplied about 6 percent of total U.S. electricity in 2016," said Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Daniel Simmons. "As our reports explain, a combination of federal subsidies, state mandates, and technological advancements continue to help drive new wind capacity additions."

Key findings from the 2016 Wind Technologies Market Report by the Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory:

  • Utility-scale wind installations stand at more than 82 GW, enough to meet about 6.2 percent of U.S. end-use electricity demand in an average year.
  • In total, 40 states and Puerto Rico operated utility-scale wind projects. Texas led the nation in capacity with over 20 GW of wind installed; utility-scale wind came online in North Carolina in early 2017.
  • The report also finds that wind energy continues to be sold at attractive prices through power purchase agreements, making this renewable energy source cost-competitive with traditional power sources such as natural gas in many parts of the U.S, especially when wind energy is sold at a fixed price over 20 years.
  • In the past year, Iowa and South Dakota produced more than 30 percent of their electricity from wind, and 12 other states exceeded 10 percent (Kansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, Vermont, Idaho, Maine, Texas, Oregon, New Mexico, Nebraska).
  • The report also shows the impact of growing the American workforce, currently supporting 101,738 jobs related to project development, siting, turbine manufacturing, transportation, and other sectors-an increase of 32 percent from 2015.

Key findings from the 2016 Offshore Wind Technologies Market Report by the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

  • In December 2016, Deepwater Wind completed the commissioning of the Block Island Wind Farm, marking a milestone as the first commercial offshore wind project in the U.S.
  • The 30-MW project comprises five 6-MW General Electric Haliade wind turbines installed in Rhode Island state waters off the coast of Block Island.
  • The project included laying a power cable that connects Block Island to the mainland grid for the first time, reducing electric rates on the island and diversifying the state's power supply.
  • The U.S. offshore wind project development pipeline includes over 20 projects totaling 24,135 MW of potential installed capacity. Most of the near-term activity is concentrated in the Atlantic off the Northeast coast, but projects have been proposed in the Southeast Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes.
  • Of the U.S. projects in deeper waters, where traditional bottom-mounted technologies are not feasible, proposed floating offshore wind projects now total 1,993 MW of announced capacity.
  • News of the declining costs for offshore wind projects in Europe spurred confidence in the domestic U.S. offshore wind market over the past year. Several states including Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland have enacted new policy or bolstered their existing policy to support the development of over 4,000 MW of offshore wind.

Key findings from the 2016 Distributed Wind Market Report by the Energy Department's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory:

  • Compared with traditional, centralized power plants, which send power over transmission lines to distant end-users, distributed wind energy installations supply power directly to homes, farms, businesses, and communities. In total, U.S. wind turbines in distributed applications reached a cumulative installed capacity of 992 MW.
  • This capacity comes from roughly 77,000 turbines installed across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Turbines used in these applications can range from a few hundred watts to several megawatts. This helps power remote, off-grid homes and farms, as well as local schools and manufacturing facilities.
  • U.S. manufacturers continued to dominate domestic sales of small wind turbines (up through 100 kilowatts), and half of U.S. small wind turbine manufacturers also export their products to other countries.
  • Between 2014 and 2016, U.S.-based small wind turbine manufacturers accounted for more than $240 million in small wind turbine export sales.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, American wind energy almost doubled from about 120 million megawatt hours generated in 2011 to more than 226 million megawatt hours in 2016, which represents about 6 percent of U.S. electricity generation.