The fourth quarter numbers are in, and they are impressive: the U.S. wind industry recorded its second strongest quarter in history. Combined with the best policy certainty it’s ever known, American wind is poised for a take-off.
Fourth quarter results
5,001 megawatts (MW) of wind capacity were installed during the fourth quarter of 2015. More MW came online than during all of 2014 combined, or during 2015’s first three quarters combined. American wind has installed more than 5,000 MW in one quarter only one other time, making this achievement truly historical.
The quarter caps a highly successful year overall for wind power. 8,598 MW were installed during 2015, a 77 percent increase over the prior year and the third strongest year in history. There’s now 74,472 MW of current installed capacity with, 75 GW just around the corner.
From a policy perspective, the Production Tax Credit (PTC) was also extended for five years in December. This production-based incentive has helped spur American innovation and improved domestic manufacturing, contributing to a 66 percent decline in wind’s costs over the last six years. With this much-needed policy certainty in place, the U.S. has a favorable business environment in place to build on this success.
Beyond the fourth quarter’s remarkable 5,001 MW, there were a host of other highlights including:
- Iowa becoming the country’s number two state for installed wind capacity, with over 6,000 MW. This trails only Texas’ 17,700 MW.
- Connecticut’s first utility-scale wind farm coming online during the fourth quarter, making it the 40th state with utility-scale wind energy.
- Over 9,400 MW of wind power remaining under construction, with another 4,900 MW in advanced stages of development. This ensures significant amounts of wind will continue to come online in the near term.
- New Mexico clearing 1,000 MW of installed capacity during the fourth quarter, becoming the 17th state to join the “Gigawatt Club.”
Continued interest from both new and traditional customers
2015’s fourth quarter also continued the trend of new customers purchasing wind power. Approximately 75 percent of the new MW contracted through power purchase agreements (PPA) came from non-utility buyers, such as General Motors, Procter & Gamble and Google. This new market offers U.S. wind energy an extra avenue for expansion in the coming years.
That doesn’t mean traditional buyers like utilities have lost interest; over 2,300 MW of the quarter’s installed capacity had PPAs with utilities.
Another new milestone on the horizon
After reaching 60 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity in 2012, the expiration of the PTC at the end of 2012 caused U.S. wind growth to slow down momentarily.
However, wind’s momentum is building again.
American wind power reached the 70 GW mark in December, enough electricity in one year to power 19 million typical U.S. homes. And already there may be cause for further celebration soon. With 74,472 MW of current installed capacity,we’ll soon be celebrating the 75 GW milestone.
2016 and beyond
Policy stability, a broad range of customers, and an on-going “wind rush” driven by technological improvements is setting the stage for more quarters like this. We feel confident we’ll be able to continue reporting good news like this in the months and years to come.