Wind Power’s Record Setting 2016: Will 2017 Be a Repeat?

SACE Renewable Energy Manager Simon Mahan contributed to this blogpost. 

A new market report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) shows that 2016 was a record breaker for the wind industry. And signs are pointing to an equally aggressive 2017. With a total of 8,203 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity commissioned last year, the majority of projects were completed in the final three months. The United States now harnesses more than 82,000 MW of wind power. That’s enough power for the equivalent of roughly 25 million homes!

American Wind Energy Association: U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2016 Market Report

First Wind Farm in North Carolina Takes Flight

AWEA reports that 10,432 MW of wind power projects are currently under construction. That figure includes the Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East near Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The wind farm is the first large-scale wind farm in the state and only the second in the entire Southeast region. At the start of 2017, the Amazon Wind Farm is successfully installed and almost ready to start generating electricity! The 104 wind turbines will generate enough electricity to power 61,000 homes a year, and will be used to power Amazon’s data centers.

The Nation’s First Offshore Wind Farm is Complete

America's First Offshore Wind Farm. Credit: Deepwater Wind

The U.S. offshore wind industry took a major step forward in 2016. Deepwater Wind‘s offshore wind farm started operating off the coast of Rhode Island, becoming the first offshore wind farm in the country. The 30MW Block Island Wind Farm is composed of 5 massive turbines. This monumental step is already jumpstarting the offshore industry. At the beginning of 2017, New York’s governor approved a new U.S. wind farm off Long Island – triple the size of the Block Island project!

We also expect to see advances in the offshore wind industry closer to home. On March 16, 2017 the federal government will hold an auction to lease over 122,000 square miles of ocean off the coast of North Carolina near the Outer Banks. The Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area potential will be enough to power up to 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of wind power. Check back with SACE’s blog in mid-March to learn more about these exciting development in North Carolina.

The Midwestern States Are Climbing Ahead, With Help From the South

Texas continues to take the trophy for wind energy production with more than twice the installed capacity of any other state (over 20,000 megawatts). Next comes Iowa with a quarter of the state’s electricity coming from wind power – that’s almost 7,000 megawatts installed! Oklahoma had a record breaking quarter, installing nearly 1,192 megawatts, to pass California as the state with the third most wind energy installed in the nation. Kansas jumped to 5th, surpassing Illinois. Utilities across the Southeast are playing a key role in some of this growth, currently importing nearly 4,000 megawatts of wind power from outside the region.

American Wind Energy Association: U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2016 Market Report

Low Cost Wind Projects Ready for the Taking in 2017 With a total of 18,300 MW of projects under construction and in advanced development, there are plenty of new wind farms in the making. The rush to wind power can be attributed to the low cost of wind energy, assisted in part by the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC). This tax incentive begins to phase out, and will decrease by 20% in value this year until it is completely eliminated for new wind farm projects that begin construction in 2020. Smart utilities will move quickly to buy the absolutely lowest cost wind energy resources available.

With a successful end to 2016, the amount of wind power capacity installed has doubled in just six years. Now roughly 5% of all electricity in the United States is generated by wind power. In another six years, Department of Energy predicts the industry will double again by 2023.

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