“We’re reshaping the geopolitical landscape when it comes to energy and now is not the time to back away,” said Lisa Jacobson, BCSE’s president, at yesterday’s release.
“We have a near-record amount of wind power under construction or in advanced stages of development – nearly one-third as much wind power as we have currently installed in America. And turbine prices continue to fall,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “We’re seeing a record amount of investment in our sector – almost $20 billion in wind projects were financed last year.”
Continuing to build out America’s transmission infrastructure will be key in the years ahead as we look to further tap into America’s wind power potential.
We need a “21st-century transmission system” to get all this low-cost wind energy to load, said Jack Thirolf, Head of Regulatory and Institutional Affairs, Enel Green Power North America. It’s easier to site a gas pipeline than a transmission line and we need to fix that to get this needed infrastructure built, “working with and respecting obviously the interests of the states,” according to Thirolf.
The good news is studies routinely show transmission more than pays for itself while also making the electric grid more resilient. For example, studies from Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator and the Southwest Power Pool found new transmission projects saved their customers between $1,000 and $800 each.
The reasons vary– some support wind for it’s job creation, some for its investment in rural America, and others because it’s a source of low-cost clean energy. Some people love wind because their kids “think it’s cool.” And we’ve heard from companies that build wind farms, turbine manufacturers, project developers, environmental advocates, wind workers, and so many more.
Here’s a look at some favorites from the last few days. And remember– there’s still time to tell us why you support American wind power. We’ll be back at the end of the week with a recap of some more highlights!
Last night my husband and I sat down to watch the women’s snowboarding halfpipe final in the Winter Olympics. In case you missed it, Californian Chloe Kim lived up to expectations and clinched the gold medal for the U.S.
Of course, working in the wind industry, I was nearly as excited by her win as what I saw when an aerial shot of the Bokwang Snowpark flashed on the screen. From the top of the halfpipe, a line of wind turbines dotted a nearby mountain ridge. Athletes could see the machines spinning in the distance as they prepared for their runs. How cool!
In fact, the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games are entirely powered by wind energy. “Wind power generators are currently in operation in the Host Province in accordance with the Central Korea Renewable Energy Development Plan and Wind Energy Cluster Project. The total generation capacity reached 203 megawatts (MW), exceeding the required capacity of 194 MW by 104 percent.”
We count on athletes to perform under pressure, and the Olympics are counting on wind power. The wind farm fits into the Olympic’s sustainability goal to “create an environment legacy” after the games are finished. While the strong winds in Pyeongchang have been an issue for competitors in events like Apline skiing, they are delivering a reliable source of clean electricity via the nearby wind farm.
Seeing the wind project got me curious about the state of wind energy in South Korea. It turns out the country has big plans for renewables. They aim to meet 20 percent of their total electricity demand with renewables by 2030. In December 2017, the South Korean energy ministry called for an additional 16.5 gigawatts of wind power.
South Korea’s first offshore wind project came online on November 17, 2017, about a year after America’s Block Island Wind Farm went live. Located off the coast of Jeju Island, the Tamra Offshore Wind Project is comprised of 10 turbines that produce enough power to cover the electricity needs of about 7,000 Korean households.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll be watching the men’s halfpipe final tonight, hoping to catch another glimpse of the wind project!
Starting on Monday, and running through all of next week, we want you to tell us on social media why you support wind power. It’s easy to take part: fill out this year’s sign and take a photo, record a video message, or take another creative action!
Need some ideas? Check out some of these submissions from prior years:
Iowa continues to lead the U.S. by generating over 36 percent of its electricity using wind, and it has the most installed capacity by area, showing that those who know wind best fully recognize its benefits.
“We were happy to see strong support for wind and solar among local elected leadership,” said Katie Rock, a policy program associate with the Center for Rural Affairs and one of the report’s authors.
The report found that local officials were likely to view wind energy as an economic development tool, and they were most likely to be supportive if they knew the economic benefits projects would bring to their communities.
Image courtesy of the CFRA.
CFRA’s findings also mirrored those from a recent groundbreaking study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL): a large majority of people have positive or neutral experiences living near wind turbines. Most CFRA respondents disagreed or were neutral when asked if wind turbines are a nuisance, following LBNL’s conclusion that over 90 percent of people living within five miles of a wind turbine report positive or neutral attitudes. In Iowa, specifically, a 2016 poll from the wind-rich 3rd congressional district found 89 percent of respondents supported growing wind energy.
Image courtesy of the CFRA.
Sounds like what we’ve been hearing all along:
WindTV: Wind is the New Cash Crop on an Iowa Family's Farm - YouTube
Transmission expansion is a constant topic of conversation throughout the U.S. wind industry. But the latest report from the Wind Energy Foundation (WEF) adds a new dimension to the discussion, and highlights an important oversight by transmission planners: demand for wind energy from corporate buyers like Google, GM and Nike.
Upgrading our nation’s transmission infrastructure is key to bringing the next generation of low-cost wind projects to market. However, planning and building new transmission lines is a very lengthy process – one that isn’t necessarily responsive to shifting energy preferences from consumers.
In WEF’s new report, we highlight one area of shifting and new demand that transmission planners need to account for: large corporate demand for renewable energy. Corporate purchasers have already bought over 9 gigawatts (GW) of renewables in recent years, and are making tangible progress towards reaching their goal of 60 GW of renewable procurement by 2025.
Writing in The Hill, WEF Executive Director John Kostyack and David Gardiner, President of David Gardiner and Associates, note that:
“Transmission capacity is needed, not just for the 51 GWs of voluntary corporate demand through 2025, but also mandatory demand from utilities needing to meet state-specific renewable portfolio standards as well as voluntary demand from utilities and non-corporate buyers such as universities and the military.”
Considering this demand, the report and column make two key recommendations:
“(1) RTOs and other regional planners must begin accounting for corporate demand … and (2) corporate buyers must begin communicating their plans to transmission planners and advocating for their inclusion in models of future demand.”
The column also highlights another key takeaway:
“Companies like General Motors (GM) that are making major wind power purchases are now becoming interested in transmission planning as well, as they see the connection between adequate transmission and meeting their renewable goals. We see a unique opportunity for GM, and other companies like them, to have an enormously beneficial impact in our nation’s future by helping ensure that we have the infrastructure we need to transition to a clean energy economy.”
Adequately planning for an updated grid that can accommodate new consumer demand for renewable is no easy task. As corporate buyers continue to make renewable purchases, hopefully the planning process will evolve to consider their needs as well.
Here are some of the top takeaways from this quarter’s report:
American wind power finished the year strong
There are now 89,077 megawatts (MW) of wind power installed across 41 states, enough to power over 26 million American homes.
Project developers installed 4,125 MW of new wind capacity during the fourth quarter alone, bringing a total of 29 new wind projects online across 16 states.
For the year, developers added 7,017 MW of new wind capacity, representing more than $11 billion in private investment.
Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain
Oklahoma jumped to the number two spot in state rankings after installing 851 MW during the fourth quarter, surpassing Iowa, which had held the spot for several years. Expect these states to stay in close competition in the coming years.
Texas and Oklahoma led the quarter for new wind capacity, with 1,179 MW and 851 MW installed respectively, followed by Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri.
Wind workers will be staying busy with a large pipeline of wind projects
There were nearly 29,000 MW under construction or in advanced development at the end of the fourth quarter, a 34 percent year-over-year increase.
Project developers announced 4,054 MW in new construction activity and 1,338 MW in new advanced development activity during the fourth quarter, for a combined 5,393 MW.
A development pipeline four times larger than all of the wind capacity installed in 2017 means American workers will stay busy for years to come.
Amazon's Jeff Bezos Just Opened A Massive Wind Farm In Texas | CNBC - YouTube
Corporate customers love wind
Corporate and other non-utility customers have proven themselves as a stable, consistent demand driver for wind. Non-utility customers accounted for 40 percent of total wind capacity contracted through power purchase agreements (PPA) during 2017, similar to the group’s 39 percent share in 2016.
In fact, non-utility customers signed all 710 MW of PPAs announced during the fourth quarter. Purchasers included first-time buyer Bay Area Rapid Transit, and repeat customers Google Energy, Facebook, and Digital Realty. Google Energy signed four PPAs during the fourth quarter, helping the company achieve its 100 percent renewable energy target at the end of 2017. Wind power supplied 95 percent of that renewable electricity.
To date, non-utility customers have signed PPAs for more than 7,100 MW of wind energy.
Partial repowerings are giving new life to wind farms
Besides new installed capacity, the U.S. wind industry completed 2,136 MW of partial repowerings across 15 project phases during 2017.
Partial repowerings allow project owners to deploy new, more efficient technology that increases annual energy production and extends the useful life of their wind assets. Partial repowering activity accelerated as a trend during 2017 and is expected to continue in the near term.
Wind power: Better technology through innovation - YouTube
U.S. offshore wind will clearly be an American industry, drawing on the wealth of expertise in the U.S. offshore oil & gas and onshore wind sectors. It will also benefit both of those sectors, boosting an overlapping supply chain and jobs that extend from the East Coast to the central U.S. and Gulf of Mexico.
A new study, U.S. Job Creation in Offshore Wind, authored by New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the Clean Energy States Alliance, reports that developing 8 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind from Maryland to Maine will create almost 40,000 full-time U.S. jobs by 2028 and 500,000 FTE U.S. job years over the long term. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. By 2050, a projected 86 GW of U.S. offshore wind power will support 160,000 full-time U.S. jobs. Offshore wind will also give an important boost for jobs and the supply chain in the U.S. offshore energy and onshore wind sectors, which employ 250,000 and 100,000, respectively.
The Ohio Power Siting Board has been reviewing comments submitted about the project, and of about 900 submitted so far, they are overwhelmingly in favor of the project. Notably, half of the positive comments have come from union workers.
“Their endorsements naturally emphasize the spurring of economic development, with accompanying job growth, that would take place,” wind activist Sarah Taylor notes. “However, many also strongly point out that the Northern Ohio region could lead the way in the essential move to making use of the very large untapped source of clean energy, available from the Great Lakes.”
Over 1.3 million U.S. homes are located within five miles of a large wind turbine. But there hadn’t been a nationwide survey to learn how those people felt about their local wind project – until now. A study led by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that more than 9 in 10 people who live close to wind turbines view them positively or neutrally.
This is helpful information for those living in areas contemplating welcoming a wind farm. Since there is currently a large pipeline of wind projects in development, more communities will be faced with this choice in the coming years. Knowing that other communities with existing projects feel good about their choices can give reassurance to prospective wind farm hosts.
The majority of the 1,674 survey respondents (57 percent) felt “positive” or “very positive” about their local project. That means that more wind farm neighbors like their local project than are favorable to Oprah Winfrey. And everyone loves Oprah! Even the majority of folks living closest to the turbines (within ½ mile) viewed them positively.
These results confirm what most people who live, work, or visit communities with wind farms will tell you. While there can be division over wind projects before they’re built, once the turbines are operating they don’t bother people. This Berkeley Lab survey showed that almost five times as many individuals had a positive or very positive attitude toward their local project than negative/very negative.
The vast majority of people living near turbines give them a thumbs up. Some people even grow to have a real penchant for them. For example, Tom Watne, a farmer in Blairsburg, Iowa described the turbines surrounding his land like this: “I thought the towers would be more irritable to your sight. But now they seem stately, quite pretty even.”
This is the largest national survey of wind project neighbors conducted anywhere in the world to date. A high-level summary of key results was released January 24, with more to be made public in the coming months.
At first blush, responses to a utility RFP for new capacity might not be the sort of news that sets the world on fire. But energy wonks are downright ecstatic over the results to Xcel Energy’s recent Colorado solicitation.
Xcel received over 400 bids in response to its all-energy-source RFP, and wind power led the way by a significant margin, clocking the lowest median bid of $18.10/megawatt hour (MWh). Remember—that means half of the bids received were lower than $18.10/ MWh. Nor was this a small sample size. Over 100 wind projects were proposed in response to the RFP, surpassing a combined 4,000 megawatts of wind. That demonstrates that these low bids weren’t one-off outliers, but rather indicative of real industry costs.
Simply put, they offer perhaps the clearest example yet that renewables, and wind in particular, are the cheapest sources of new electric generating capacity in wide swaths of the country, continuing to beat even the most optimistic of projections.That’s possible because American ingenuity and technological advances have driven wind’s costs down by two-thirds since 2009.
Here’s a roundup of responses that showcase just how important these results are:
The response was amazing. The world is our oyster. It was like walking into a Las Vegas buffet. — Erin Overturf, chief energy counsel for Western Resource Advocates
As far as we know, these are the lowest renewables plus storage bids in the U.S. to date. — Matt Gray, senior utilities and power analyst, Carbon Tracker
The prices keep falling, breaking records time and time again. These prices should have every policymaker, utility, and energy investor in the region reconsidering their thinking about how much renewable energy to purchase, and when. The short answer: as much as you can get, and now. – Kevin Steinberger and Noah Long, NRDC
At a minimum, the Colorado results could provide other markets a futuristic view of what resource planning could look like, by including non-traditional, but cleaner and somewhat dispatchable resources. — Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage at GTM Research
This particular snapshot reveals that, on the ground, renewable energy costs are falling faster than even the most optimistic analyst had projected.
Let’s face it: In most areas of life, when you look past the hype at the real numbers, it’s depressing. Renewable energy is one area where that typical dynamic is diverted. The closer you look, the better the news gets!
An unprecedented number of developers came forward, eager to build renewable energy and eager to couple it with energy storage, all at unprecedented prices… The Xcel RFP in Colorado is a relatively small signal, but it is one of many sending the same message: renewable energy is not “alternative” any more. Costs are dropping so fast it’s difficult to keep track. It is the cheapest power available in more and more places, and by the time children born today enter college, it is likely to be the cheapest everywhere. That’s a different world.