Worried about distributed solar? Here comes distributed wind!

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By: SGN Staff

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Quick Take: Two new reports from the U.S. Department of Energy should sound an alert to North American utilities. First, wind energy has become the number one source of new electricity generation (43%). Wind has its benefits, of course, but it is also a highly variable resource that causes many issues.

 

Second, that wind is not necessarily appearing in large, centralized wind farms. In fact, two thirds of all wind turbines installed between 2003-2012 were distributed.

 

"The public often pictures large wind projects with long rows of turbines when they think of wind power," said the report's lead author Alice Orrell, an energy analyst at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "But this report provides detailed data that shows this image is incomplete. Many of the nation's turbines are for distributed, not centralized, wind projects."’

 

PNNL wrote the report for DOE with support from energy consulting firm eFormative Options, the Distributed Wind Energy Association and the American Wind Energy Association. - By Jesse Berst

 

Energy Dept. reports: U.S. wind energy production and manufacturing reaches record highs

 

WASHINGTON – The Energy Department released two new reports showcasing record growth across the U.S. wind market – increasing America’s share of clean, renewable energy and supporting tens of thousands of jobs nationwide. According to these reports, the United States continues to be one of the world’s largest and fastest growing wind markets. In 2012, wind energy became the number one source of new U.S. electricity generation capacity for the first time – representing 43 percent of all new electric additions and accounting for $25 billion in U.S. investment.

 

In the first four years of the Obama Administration, American electricity generation from wind and solar power more than doubled. President Obama’s Climate Action Plan makes clear that the growth of clean, renewable wind energy remains a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy that reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions, diversifies our energy economy and brings innovative technologies on line. The Obama Administration has committed to another doubling of the renewable electricity generation from energy resources like wind power by 2020.

 

“The tremendous growth in the U.S. wind industry over the past few years underscores the importance of consistent policy that ensures America remains a leader in clean energy innovation,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “As the fastest growing source of power in the United States, wind is paving the way to a cleaner, more sustainable future that protects our air and water and provides affordable, clean renewable energy to more and more Americans.”

 

The tremendous growth in the overall U.S. wind industry has led directly to more American jobs throughout a number of sectors and at factories and power plants across the country. According to industry estimates, the wind sector employs over 80,000 American workers, including workers at manufacturing facilities up and down the supply chain, as well as engineers and construction workers who build wind installations.

Distributed Wind Market Report

For the first time, the Energy Department and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory today issued the 2012 Market Report on Wind Technologies in Distributed Applications – highlighting strong growth in the U.S. distributed wind energy market.

 

Compared to traditional, centralized power plants, distributed wind energy installations directly supply power to the local grid near homes, farms, businesses and communities– helping to improve grid reliability and efficiency. Turbines used in these applications can range in size from a few hundred watts to multi-megawatts, and can help power remote, off-grid homes and farms as well as local schools and manufacturing facilities. Over the past ten years, the U.S. distributed wind market has grown more than five-fold.

 

The report finds that distributed wind in the U.S. reached a 10-year cumulative installed capacity of more than 812 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2012 – representing more than 69,000 units across all 50 states. Between 2011 and 2012, U.S. distributed wind capacity grew by 175 MW, with about 80 percent of this growth coming from utility-scale installations. At the state level, Iowa, Massachusetts, California and Wisconsin led the nation in new distributed wind power capacity in 2012.

 

Still, most distributed wind buyers continue to choose small wind turbines, which have a rated capacity of no greater than 100 kilowatts. Last year, domestic sales from U.S. wind suppliers accounted for nearly 90 percent of new small wind generation capacity. Broadly, nine out of the top ten wind turbine models installed last year in U.S. distributed applications were made in America.

 

The wind sector’s growth underscores the importance of continued policy support and clean energy tax credits to ensure that wind manufacturing and jobs remain in America. The 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report expects 2013 to be a slow year for new capacity additions, due in part to continued policy uncertainty and project development timelines. While the report notes that 2014 is expected to be more robust, as developers commission projects that will begin construction in 2013, it also notes that projections for 2015 and beyond are much less certain.

 

Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.