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2 May 2019

US Wind in the rise, Q1 records, Wind Farm technician is a top job

A report out this week from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)  shows an impressive 6.1 GW of fresh planned wind farms in Q1 2019 – this compares with a total of 7.8 GW actually installed throughout 2018 (Irena figures). However the sign up rate and the install rate, although they have to eventually catch up with one another, are not the same thing.

The AWEA says that only 841 MW came online during the quarter, so unless that rate accelerates, this year will fall somewhat behind the 2018 figure. We presume that the Q1 slow run rate relates to supply chain, civil permissions and skilled labor and reading the other AWEA numbers it looks likely to accelerate.

The report says that the US wind pipeline is now up to 39.1 GW, up 11% over last quarter and it claims that eight states will double their installed wind capacity during 2019.

“With nearly 40,000 MW in development, America’s largest source of renewable energy generating capacity is on a path to grow by 40% in the near term,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “In doing so, we’ll create thousands of additional American jobs and new economic opportunities for factory towns and rural communities across the country.”

Of the total wind pipeline, 17.2 GW are already under construction with Texas having most at 6.5 GW, of which 1.25 GW is new this year. Also there are 21.9 GW of wind capacity in the advanced development stage, another record level – these are projects that are not yet being built, but are likely to come online because they either have signed a long-term contract, placed turbine orders, or are proceeding under utility ownership.

The additional 841 MW installed so far takes the country’s total capacity to 97.2 GW with Iowa the leader with new capacity installations with 536 MW brought online.

Q1 2019 was the second strongest ever for power purchase agreements (PPAs) since AWEA began tracking procurement activity, with 2.7 GW of wind PPAs signed. Utilities signed contracts totaling 2,694 MW, led by Northern Indiana Public Service Company and the National Grid. What’s more utilities announced plans to build and own 1.05 GW of wind in the first quarter.

Almost 30% of projects which have already selected a turbine have capacities of 3 MW or higher—with 3.5 MW and larger models being used in 18 different projects.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issues plans to increase offshore wind to 9 GW by 2035, up from a previous target of just 2.4 GW and the National Grid filed for approval of a 20-year contract to buy 400 MW from the Revolution Wind project at $98 a MWh, one of the first offshore projects to go below $100 per MWh.

AWEA said that Wind turbine technician remains the second-fastest growing career in the country, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and at the end of 2018 114,000 Americans worked in wind power.