Top Wind Turbines in the U.S. Wind Energy Market

General Electric (GE) remained the number one manufacturer of wind turbines supplying the U.S. wind energy market in 2009, with 40% of domestic wind farm (down slightly from 43% in 2008, 45% in 2007, and 47% in 2006).

Following GE were Vestas (15%), Siemens (12%), Mitsubishi (8%), Suzlon (7%), Clipper (6%), Gamesa (6%), REpower (3%), Acciona (2%), and Nordex (1%). Other utility-scale (>100 kW) wind turbines installed in the United States in 2009 (and that fall into the “Other” category) include turbines from NedWind (6.5 MW), AAER (6 MW), DeWind (6 MW), Führlander (4.5 MW), Goldwind (4.5 MW), RRB (2.4 MW), Elecon (0.6 MW), and Wind Energy Solutions (0.25 MW).

A notable increase in competition among wind turbines manufacturers has occurred since 2005, with the number of manufacturers installing more than 1 MW increasing from just 6 in 2005 to 16 manufacturers in 2009.

Consequently, the wind power market share of the leading manufacturers – in percentage terms – has generally declined. Manufacturers with modern wind turbines installed in the United States now hail from not just the United States, Europe, and Japan, but also from India and, for the first time in 2009, China.
Chinese and South Korean manufacturers, in particular, began to express strong interest in entering the U.S. market in 2009, though the timing and speed of that entry remains uncertain.

Notwithstanding any changes in market share that have occurred in percentage terms, most manufacturers saw installations of their wind turbines grow between 2008 and 2009, in many cases significantly. 

The most significant growth was experienced by GE (+410 MW), Vestas and Siemens (+370 MW each), Mitsubishi (+298 MW), and REpower (+236 MW). Suzlon and Gamesa each installed a few less MW in the United States in 2009 than in 2008, while Acciona’s installations declined by a more significant amount (-206 MW).

In 2009, U.S.-owned GE was the second-leading supplier of wind turbines globally, with a 12.4% market share, slightly behind Vestas’ 12.5% market share. Clipper was the 13th largest manufacturer, with 1.6% of the worldwide market.

On a worldwide basis, perhaps the most significant story of 2009 was the growing market share of Chinese wind turbine manufactures; to date, that growth has been based almost entirely on sales to the Chinese market.

Domestic Wind Turbine and Component Manufacturing Investments Remained Strong in 2009, but the Financial Crisis and Weak Turbine Sales Slowed the Sector’s Growth

As wind farm deployment has increased in the United States, a growing number of foreign and domestic wind turbine and component manufacturers have begun or continued to localize and expand operations across the nation.

Though the financial crisis resulted in a slowdown in overall U.S. manufacturing in 2009, wind energy equipment manufacturing was, to a degree, a bright spot.

Of the 34 new or announced facilities in 2009, two are owned by major international wind turbines original equipment manufacturers (OEMs): Siemens (nacelles in Hutchinson, Kansas), and Mitsubishi Power Systems (nacelles in Fort Smith, Arkansas). In addition, GE announced plans to open a research facility in Van Buren Township, Michigan.

Several smaller- to mid-sized OEMs also opened or announced U.S. factories in 2009. Nordic Windpower, for example, opened a wind turbine manufacturing and assembly facility in Pocatello, Idaho, where it is producing and assembling its 1 MW wind turbines.

Continental Wind announced that it would open a wind turbine manufacturing facility in Santa Paula, California, where it will reportedly focus on the production of wind turbines ranging from 300-900 kW. Still other firms, including a number of major international wind turbine vendors, continued to make progress in establishing themselves in the U.S. market based on manufacturing plans announced prior to 2009.

As a result of this activity, seven of the ten OEMs with the largest share of the U.S. market in 2009 (GE, Vestas, Siemens, Suzlon, Clipper, Gamesa, Acciona) have one or more manufacturing facilities operating in the United States, and two of the remaining three (Mitsubishi, Nordex) have announced specific plans to open facilities in the future.

These figures compare to just one utility-scale wind turbine OEM assembling nacelles in the United States in 2004 (GE). Still other active domestic and foreign OEMs have already established manufacturing facilities in the United States (Nordic, DeWind) or have at least tentatively announced the location of future U.S. manufacturing facilities (Alstom, Emergya, Führlander, A-Power, Ming Yang), while several U.S. companies have announced their interest in manufacturing but have not yet built any utility-scale turbines (e.g., Northern Power Systems, Continental Wind).

Other notable developments from 2009 and early 2010 include the cash infusions garnered by emerging domestic turbine OEMs, and the increased interest in the United States market by Asian players. Clipper, for example, received a cash infusion through the sale of 49.5% of the company to United Technologies Corporation, while Nordic Windpower also raised substantial new capital.
Meanwhile, in addition to Mitsubishi’s planned nacelle assembly facility, new Asian OEMs from South Korea and China demonstrated interest in the U.S. market. South Korea’s Samsung, Hyundai, and Unison, for example, all announced interest in U.S. sales of wind turbines, while California-based Composite Technology Corporation sold its DeWind manufacturing business to South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. China’s Goldwind installed its first wind turbines on United States soil in 2009, and a number of other Chinese manufacturers have also announced their entry into the market; in early 2010, for example, A-Power and Ming Yang announced the location of possible future manufacturing facilities in Nevada and Texas, respectively.

A number of domestic manufacturers that were not previously active in the wind energy sector transitioned into the industry in 2009: five such companies are located in Michigan, one of the states hardest hit by the economic downturn. These facilities span the entire supply chain. Though new and announced component manufacturing facilities are spread across the country, a number of companies are choosing to locate near already-established large-scale OEMs; for example, in 2009, six component suppliers announced or opened facilities in Colorado, where Vestas has made significant investments.

Some of the states that have experienced the greatest growth in installed wind power capacity in recent years are also seeing significant new manufacturing activity. Even states with little installed wind power capacity, however, are reaping job and economic benefits from new wind-related manufacturing facilities, particularly if those states are strategically positioned geographically near the main wind power markets and in locations that minimize transportation logistics challenges and costs (e.g., Arkansas).

As a result of these developments, AWEA (2010a) estimates that the wind energy sector employed 85,000 full-time workers in the United States at the end of 2009, the same figure as in 2008 but much higher than in years prior to 2008. In addition to manufacturing, these jobs span project development, construction and turbine installation, operations and maintenance, transportation and logistics, and financial, legal, and consulting services.

Notwithstanding the generally positive outlook for the turbine manufacturing sector in the United States, however, the industry is facing economic headwinds. AWEA estimates that 1,500 manufacturing jobs were lost in 2009 (reducing the number of wind turbine and component manufacturing jobs in the United States to around 18,500 at year end, but still up significantly from years past) as a number of firms delayed or scaled-back their expansion plans and announced layoffs as a result of weak demand for wind turbines and the poor state of the U.S. economy. With financial conditions showing signs of stabilizing, some manufacturers have already begun the process of rehiring workers and resuming their expansion plans, but the outlook for 2010 remains uncertain.

In addition, as the domestic industry expands, a new challenge has become more acute: workforce training and development for all segments of the wind power industry. A variety of programs at the local and national levels are beginning to target these needs.

A Growing Percentage of the Equipment Used in U.S. Wind Power Projects Has Been Sourced Domestically in Recent Years

As a result of the foregoing developments in U.S.-based wind turbine and component manufacturing, AWEA estimates that the share of domestically manufactured wind turbines and components grew from 20-25% in 2005 to roughly 50% in 2009. David (2010) uses somewhat different methods and assumptions, and estimates that the import share of wind turbines and selected components as a proportion of total turbine costs declined from 64% in 2006 to 32% in 2009 (these data suggest a domestic content of 36% in 2006, increasing to 68% in 2009; one reason for the difference with AWEA is that David (2010) focuses on imports as a fraction of total turbine costs – including soft costs associated with turbine sales transactions – whereas AWEA (2010a) focuses on imports as a fraction of turbine equipment costs alone).

Despite the different approaches taken, AWEA (2010a), David (2010), and the analysis presented in this section all focus on wind turbines and components and wind turbine costs. Excluded from all three analyses are foundations, electrical collection and grid interconnection systems, roads, project development costs, and other non-turbine balance-of-plant expenditures. Following the approach used by AWEA (2010a), and unlike David (2010), our analysis emphasizes equipment imports as a fraction of wind turbine equipment-related costs alone. but with somewhat different assumptions and data processing. This analysis supports the basic conclusion that the United States remains a large importer of wind power equipment, but that wind power capacity growth is outpacing growth in imports, yielding a growing share of domestic manufacturing content.

U.S. imports of wind-powered generating sets grew from $1.3 billion in 2006 to nearly $2.5 billion in both 2007 and 2008, before falling to roughly $2.3 billion in 2009 (all data are presented in real 2009 dollars). At $2.3 billion, the United States was – by far – the largest importer of wind-powered generating sets in 2009, representing approximately 34% of worldwide imports (no other country reached 10% of global imports).

The primary source markets from which these imports to the United States originate have been and continue to be the home countries of the major international wind turbine manufacturers: Denmark, Spain, Japan, India, and Germany.

Exports of wind-powered generating sets from the United States increased to $120 million in 2009, up from roughly $20 million in 2008. The largest destination markets for U.S. exports over the entire 2006-2009 timeframe included Canada (69%), China (12%), Chile (8%), and Mexico (7%). It is clear from Figure 11 that the United States remains a sizable net importer of wind-powered generating sets. In fact, while the United States ranks first globally as an importer of wind-powered generating sets, representing 34% of global imports, it ranks seventh in the export of similar equipment, representing 3% of global exports, behind the largest global exporters of Denmark (28% of exports), Germany (23%), Spain (19%), Japan (12%), and India (8%).

Wind turbine blades, hubs, generators, gearboxes, and other components are included in Figure 11 only if shipped with the nacelle itself. These same wind turbine components may also be imported separate from the nacelle, however, implying that the data presented in Figure 11 include only a fraction of total wind equipment imported into the United States. Data for the separate importation of some wind turbine components are also available and can be added to the imports, but data on the separate importation of turbine components are embedded within larger trade categories that include sectors other than wind energy.

Notable trends include an increase in imports of blades and other components (“parts of other engines and motors” and “parts of generators”) from Mexico and India in 2009, and a sizable shift of tower and lattice mast imports away from Europe and Canada and toward Asia. Similarly, from 2006-2009, an increasing share of generator imports have come from Asia, whereas European imports have declined.26

U.S. market remains reliant on imports of wind power equipment, that reliance has declined over time as growth in installed wind power capacity has outpaced growth in wind turbine and component imports.

To estimate the percentage share of imports and domestic production over time, one must account for the fact that turbines and components imported at the end of one year may not be installed until the following year. Those import figures are then compared to total wind turbine equipment-related costs on a calendar-year basis. When presented as a fraction of total equipment-related turbine costs in this fashion, the overall import fraction is found to have declined significantly from more than 80% in 2006 to roughly 40% in 2009.

Total wind turbine costs ($/kW) are assumed to equal approximately 75% of the average project-level costs reported later in this report in Figure 27, while wind turbine equipment-related costs are assumed to equal 85% of total wind turbine costs (with the remaining 15% consisting of transportation, project management, and other soft costs).

To calculate total calendar-year wind turbine equipment-related costs, we multiply this wind turbine equipment-related cost figure in $/kW by annual wind power capacity installations. Note that David (2010) does not de-rate total wind turbine costs to estimate equipment-related costs alone, and the estimated import shares reported by David (2010) therefore differ somewhat from those reported here and by AWEA.

Reporting these figures as a proportion of total wind project installed costs (not just wind turbine equipment-related costs) is also of interest, but is complicated by the fact that non-turbine balance-of-plant costs may also involve some level of imports. Nonetheless, if one simply assumes that 80% of non-turbine-equipment balance-of-plant costs derive from domestic sources with the remaining 20% from imports, then the import fraction for total wind project installed costs would equal 60% in 2006, declining to 53% in 2007, 37% in 2008, and 32% in 2009.

Nonetheless, the overall findings presented here are directionally consistent with the data presented in AWEA and David (2010): a growing amount of the equipment used in wind power projects is being sourced domestically as domestic and foreign companies seek to minimize transportation costs and currency risks through local manufacturing. Domestic manufacturing and foreign direct investment in the U.S. market are becoming increasingly prevalent relative to cross-border trade in wind power equipment (see also Kirkegaard et al. 2009). In fact, though imperfect, this analysis suggests a greater domestic share of turbine and component manufacturing than estimated by AWEA.

Moreover, the planned manufacturing investments discussed in the previous section may lead to increased domestic content in the years ahead: whether that trend continues unabated, however, may depend on the size and stability of the U.S. wind power market as well as the manufacturing strategies of emerging turbine manufacturers from Asia and elsewhere.

The Average Nameplate Capacity, Hub Height, and Rotor Diameter of Installed Wind Turbines Increased

The average nameplate capacity of wind turbines installed in the United States in 2009 increased to roughly 1.74 MW, up from 1.66 MW in 2008 and 1.65 MW in 2007.

Since 1998-99, average wind turbine nameplate capacity has increased by 145%, but growth in this metric has slowed in recent years due to the dominance of GE’s 1.5 MW turbine and as a result of the logistical challenges associated with transporting larger turbines to project sites.

Table 6 shows how the distribution of turbine nameplate capacity has shifted over time: roughly 25% of all wind turbines installed in 2009 had a nameplate capacity larger than 2.0 MW, compared to 19% in 2008, 16% in both 2007 and 2006, and just 0.1% or less in years prior to 2006. GE’s 1.5 MW wind turbine remained by far the nation’s most-popular turbine in 2009, with 2,663 units installed, equating to 40% of all wind power capacity installed in 2009.

In addition to nameplate capacity ratings, average hub heights and rotor diameters have also scaled with time. The average hub height of wind turbines installed in the United States in 2009 was 78.8 meters, up slightly from 78.5 meters in 2008 and 78.2 meters in 2007. Since 1998-99, the average turbine hub height has increased by 39% (or 22.3 meters), though year-on-year growth has slowed in the more recent years. Average rotor diameters have increased at a somewhat more rapid pace: the average rotor diameter of wind turbines installed in the United States in 2009 was 81.6 meters, up from 79.4 meters in 2008 and 79.2 meters in 2007.

Since 1998-99, the average rotor diameter has increased by 69% (or 33.2 meters). For turbines installed in 2009, the maximum hub height and rotor diameter were 80 meters and 101 meters, respectively (a higher maximum hub height of 105 meter exists for turbines installed in 2008). These trends in hub height and rotor scaling are one of several factors impacting the project-level capacity factors highlighted later in this report.

Primary authors: Ryan Wiser, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Mark Bolinger, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. With contributions from Galen Barbose, Naïm Darghouth, Ben Hoen, and Andrew Mills (Berkeley Lab), Kevin Porter and Sari Fink (Exeter Associates), Suzanne Tegen (National Renewable Energy Laboratory).