New Report on Wind Energy Shows Cost Reductions, Innovation

Guest Blog | August 19, 2014 | Energy Policy, Wind

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has released its 2013 Wind Technologies Market Report. This annual report notes important achievements for the wind industry. Overall, wind turbine innovation increasingly makes wind energy development across the country a winning proposition. Wind turbine costs and the price for wind energy continues to drop. That’s good news for the south, where wind energy is beginning to make inroads in Alabama, ArkansasGeorgia, Louisiana and Tennessee. The National Renewable Energy Lab previously found that these new innovative turbines, with taller towers and longer blades, open up billions of dollars worth of wind energy opportunity in the South.

If you do not have time to read the 96-page report, listed below are a few key statements pulled from the report that will help bring you up to speed. All quotes below are taken from the 2013 Wind Technologies Market Report, published by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

Generation Penetration

“Notably, the wind power capacity installed in Iowa and South Dakota supplied 27% and 26%, respectively, of all in-state electricity generation in 2013, with Kansas close behind at more than 19%. In six other states wind supplied between 12% and 17% of all in-state electricity generation in 2013.”

Market Trends

“GE captured 90% U.S. market share in a slow 2013.”

“Additionally, the entire wind energy sector employed 50,500 full-time workers in the United States at the end of 2013, a deep reduction from the 80,700 jobs reported for 2012. With significant wind installations expected in 2014 and 2015, turbine orders have now rebounded.”

“Conversely, the combined value of domestic wind equipment and untracked imports of wind equipment increased from about 20% in 2006-2007 to about 70% in 2012–2013.”

Turbine Innovation Trends

“The average nameplate capacity of newly installed wind turbines in the United States in 2013 was 1.87 MW, up 162% since 1998–1999. The average hub height in 2013 was 80 meters, up 45% since 1998-1999, while the average rotor diameter was 97 meters, up 103% since 1998–1999.”

“With growth in average swept area (in m2 ) outpacing growth in average nameplate capacity (in W), there has been a decline in the average “specific power” (in W/m2 ) among the U.S. turbine fleet over time, from around 400 W/m2 among projects installed in 1998–1999 to 255 W/m2 among projects installed in 2013…All else equal, a lower average specific power will boost capacity factors, because there is more swept rotor area available (resulting in greater energy capture) for each watt of rated turbine capacity, meaning that the generator is likely to run closer to or at its rated capacity more often.”

Cost Reduction Trends 

“The large Interior region, where much of U.S. wind project development occurs, saw average levelized PPA prices of just $22/MWh in 2013.”

“After topping out at nearly $70/MWh for PPAs executed in 2009, the national average levelized price of wind PPAs that were signed in 2013 (and that are within the Berkeley Lab sample) fell to around $25/MWh nationwide-a new low, but admittedly focused on a sample of projects that largely hail from the lowest-priced Interior region of the country.”

“Recently announced turbine transactions have often been priced in the $900–$1,300/kW range.”

“The capacity-weighted average installed project cost within our limited 2013 sample stood at roughly $1,630/kW down more than $300/kW from the reported average cost in 2012 and down more than $600/kW from the apparent peak in average reported costs in 2009 and 2010. …Early indications from a larger sample (16 projects totaling more than 2 GW) of projects currently under construction and anticipating completion in 2014 suggest that capacity-weighted average installed costs are closer to $1750/kW—still down significantly from 2012 levels.”

“Specifically, capacity-weighted average 2000–2013 O&M costs for the 24 projects in the sample constructed in the 1980s equal $34/MWh, dropping to $23/MWh for the 37 projects installed in the 1990s, to $10/MWh for the 74 projects installed in the 2000s, and to $9/MWh for the 20 projects installed since 2010.”

“If expressed instead in terms of $/kW-year, capacity-weighted average 2000–2013 O&M costs were $66/kW-year for projects in the sample constructed in the 1980s, dropping to $55/kW-year for projects constructed in the 1990s, to $28/kW-year for projects constructed in the 2000s, and to $23/kW-year for projects constructed since 2010.”

“Recent studies show that wind energy integration costs are almost always below $12/MWh—and often below $5/MWh—for wind power capacity penetrations of up to or even exceeding 40% of the peak load of the system in which the wind power is delivered.”

Check out the full report at:

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