AWEA and others continue to crunch data for 2015, and the good news keeps coming.
Wind power installed more electric generating capacity than any other form of power generation in 2015. The 8.6 gigawatts (GW) of wind power installed last year positioned wind well ahead of both solar power (7.3 GW) and natural gas (6 GW). To put it in context, 8.6 GW is enough electricity to power over 2.3 million typical American homes.
Following the strong finish last year, U.S. wind energy is off to a good start in 2016, with 9.4 GW currently under construction and an additional 4.9 GW in advanced stages of development. U.S. wind also finally has long-term policy stability with the five-year Production Tax Credit renewal. That helps create a business environment primed for expansion.
The rapid growth of renewables, and the continued retirement of coal plants, has not significantly impacted retail prices, according to BCSE and BNEF’s 2016 Factbook. The report states “retail electricity rates across the country remain 5.8 percent below the recent peak (2008).”
With the 8.6 GW added last year, there’s now enough wind installed to produce electricity for over 19 million American homes.
And the good news is not just limited to America. Throughout Europe wind power was also the number one source of new energy capacity, representing approximately 44 percent of all power installations in 2015. The European Wind Energy Association also finds that renewables captured 77 percent of all new EU power installations. Combined, the U.S. and the EU installed 21.4 GW of wind power capacity.
However, there is still work to be done in order to spread wind energy’s low-cost benefits to all corners of the country.
Access to sufficient transmission infrastructure will be an important catalyst for future growth. Analyses by grid operators SPP and MISO confirm transmission provides billions of dollars in net benefits to consumers through reduced costs and improved reliability by creating access to America’s best wind resources.
The Department of Energy’s Wind Vision report shows a path for wind power to double in the next five years, and supply 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs by 2030 – creating tremendous economic and environmental benefits along the way. Consumer savings from wind are projected to reach $14 billion a year by 2050, with cumulative savings on electricity bills reaching $149 billion.
2015 ranks as the third highest year for wind installations on record. American wind power has installed as much as 13,124 MW in a single year (2012), when wind also was similarly the largest source of new electrical generating capacity.