Demand drives wind power development to new heights in first quarter of 2018
Strong demand for affordable, reliable wind energy drove a busy first quarter for new U.S. wind farm announcements. Wind power’s low cost and stable energy prices motivated utility and non-utility customers to sign contracts for 3,500 MW of U.S. wind capacity in the first quarter of 2018, a high water mark in recent years, according to a new report released Wednesday by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The U.S. Wind Industry First Quarter 2018 Market Report also reveals 5,523 MW in first quarter wind-project announcements, adding to a total of 33,449 MW of wind-power capacity in the combined construction and advanced development pipeline.
“Word is out that wind power is an excellent source of affordable, reliable, and clean energy,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “Our industry is consistently growing the wind-project pipeline as leading companies, including utilities and brands like AT&T and Nestle, keep placing orders. Strong demand for wind power is fueling an economic engine supporting a record 105,500 U.S. wind jobs in farm and factory towns across the nation.”
Utilities and Fortune 500 brands both continue to scale up investments in wind energy because it makes good business sense. The cost of wind power has fallen by two-thirds since 2009, making wind cost-competitive with other energy sources. In fact, in strong wind resource regions such as the Great Plains and Texas, wind is the most cost-effective source of new electricity. And because wind power has no fuel costs, buyers can lock in low rates for decades to protect against future fuel price spikes.
Wind energy customers signed more than 3,500 MW in long-term contracts called power purchase agreements (PPAs) in the first quarter. That’s the highest volume of PPA announcements in any quarter since AWEA began tracking them in 2013. Six companies including Adobe, AT&T, and Nestle signed wind PPAs for the first time, while Bloomberg, Facebook, Nike, and T-Mobile became repeat customers. In addition, utility buyers including PacifiCorp and DTE Energy made large-scale announcements to develop and own wind power.
Across the country, 36 wind projects representing a combined 5,523 MW announced they either began construction or entered advanced development in the first quarter. Construction started on 1,366 MW of wind capacity, and 4,158 MW entered advanced stages of development, which includes projects that have found buyers for their energy, announced a firm turbine order, or have been announced to proceed under utility ownership. The full pipeline of wind farms under construction or in advanced development now totals 33,449 MW, a 40 percent increase over this time last year and the highest level since this statistic was first measured at the beginning of 2016.
Seven new wind farms came online across seven states in the quarter, totaling 406 MW. In total, there are now 89,379 MW of installed wind capacity in the United States. That’s more than 54,000 wind turbines operating in 41 states plus Guam and Puerto Rico and enough installed capacity to power more than 27 million American homes.
Wind power is a 50-state industry supporting a record 105,500 U.S. jobs.