Xcel Energy is top performing wind-energy asset owner in the U.S.


Using audited data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), which is a part of the Department of Energy (DoE) in the United States of America, IntelStor has now completed the most detailed analysis of the efficiency of wind power ever in the country.

Including decommissioned turbines and wind parks, the U.S. has a total pool of more than 85,500 onshore and offshore wind turbines, and more than 151.7 GW worth of onshore and offshore wind power installed capacity which can be analyzed.

The analysis shows the U.S. has a 34.84 percent combined lifetime average net capacity factor (NCF) for the entire installed base of more than 85,500 wind turbines.

The evolution of lifetime average net capacity factor over time shows a marked increase in average performance from 20-plus years ago. For assets installed around the year 2000, the U.S. had an average net capacity factor of just 26.45 percent. By 2003, that fleetwide average figure exceeded 30 percent for the first time. It took another 10 years from that point until 2014 before lifetime average fleetwide performance was above a 40 percent net capacity factor.

Xcel Energy, with a total of 4.38 GW of operational capacity installed in the United States, has exceptional performance with 96 percent of their fleet operating at or above a P50 energy yield ranking. (Courtesy: Xcel Energy)

South Dakota, with an average of 42.78 percent across all wind parks, edges out Nebraska and Kansas to lead the U.S. in lifetime average net capacity factor of assets that are still operational, as well as those that have been decommissioned.

BlackRock (average 45.62 percent NCF), Ørsted (average 43.35 percent NCF,) and Xcel Energy (average 43.05 percent NCF) have the highest fleetwide capacity factors based on asset ownership, which is concentrated in Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Nebraska, Colorado, and Minnesota.

The three largest asset owners in the U.S., NextEra Energy Resources (average 36.78 percent NCF); Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE), including MidAmerican Energy Company and PacifiCorp (average 37.10 percent NCF); and Iberdrola’s Avangrid Renewables (average 31.23 percent NCF) have an older and more geographically diversified fleet, which has dragged their performance down relative to others.

Since lifetime average net capacity factor (NCF) is highly dependent on the specific site conditions of a wind park, variations in average wind speed from state-to-state or even site-to-site within a state, can create a bias to the benchmarking analysis that is solely based on NCF. Therefore, it is also important to look at asset performance benchmarking based on energy yield analysis as well.

In the U.S., more than 51.76 percent of all operational onshore wind-energy assets show they meet or exceed their P50 performance quotation. Approximately 34.25 percent of operational assets meet or exceed a P75, but not their P50, while 12.69 percent meet or exceed a P90, but not their P75 energy yield. Only 1.3 percent of the wind turbines installed in the U.S. fall below their P90 performance quote based upon their lifetime average AEP and capacity factor analysis.

Xcel Energy, with a total of 4.38 GW of operational capacity installed in the United States, has truly exceptional performance with 96 percent of their fleet operating at or above a P50 energy yield ranking.

Some of the largest asset owners in the U.S. have a performance ranking probably as expected, with NextEra Energy Resources seeing more than 66.7 percent of their operational capacity in the P50 range. Similarly, Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE) has just a fraction below 78 percent of their installed fleet operating at or above a P50 energy yield.

However, Iberdrola’s Avangrid Renewables, Energias de Portugal Renewables (EDPR) North America, and RWE as the next three in line for total installed capacity all show significantly lower performance amongst their fleet. Iberdrola’s dependence on legacy Gamesa turbines globally has certainly dragged down their performance in the U.S., along with their current lack of repowering prowess when compared to the other large asset owners.

Engie, American Electric Power (AEP), Southern Company, and Alliant Energy are the most noteworthy among the top 25 asset owners by installed capacity in the U.S. aside from Xcel Energy. This is due to respective fleets with no assets which perform below a P75 energy yield rank.

GE Renewable Energy has the largest installed base in the U.S. with 60.8 GW operational, but also the largest portion of their operational fleet performing at or above a P50 energy yield, a total of 61.59 percent. Vestas is in the No. 2 spot with a total of 61.1 percent of its 38.2 GW operating at or above a P50 energy yield, and Siemens Gamesa rounds out the top three with 23.3 GW installed, but only 36.75 percent operating at a P50 energy yield.

Age-related performance degradation of wind turbines can have profound impacts on asset profitability through the unrecovered loss of lifetime average performance in the later years of the asset life.

In the U.S., dating back to the earliest installations in the 1980s, IntelStor can currently estimate a total of 114.4 TW/h of wind-energy production were lost due to curtailments and underperformance issues, underscoring the importance of proper fleet care and management.

The U.S. has a capacity weighted average asset performance drop-off of more than 10 percent in average annual AEP after approximately 11 years for the entire onshore wind installed base, including both operational and decommissioned capacity. The asset age since the commissioning date that shows the highest frequency of performance drop-off is 10 years, with a standard distribution curve around that time frame.

The major asset owners in the U.S., who tend to self-perform their maintenance, actually have a relatively longer period of asset operations prior to the age-related performance drop-off. However, it is also noteworthy that they still show a comparable frequency of performance drop-off vs. OEM maintenance or maintenance services from an independent service provider.

Now, with more than 47 GW of assets in the U.S. that are at least 10 years old or older, there is ample opportunity for all states, all project developers, all asset owners, and all investors to collectively take maximum advantage of the available wind resources in the U.S. and repower older wind parks with more efficient technology.

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