Wind Updates for January 2017

First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm: If you’re a fan of offshore wind, uncork the champagne! December, 2016 marked the christening – the final interconnection – of the first offshore wind installation in the United States. The Deepwater Wind Farm – six, 5 MW turbines — was energized off Block Island on Monday, December 13th. Wind will now power 90% of Block Island’s power needs, a resort community formerly dependent upon diesel generators.

U.S. Offshore Wind Potential: Block Island is likely the tip of the iceberg. Offshore wind in the United States has huge potential. A 2013 technical report issued by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that the wind potential off the United States coast to be 4,223 GW, nearly four times the current generating capacity of all power plants in the country. The barriers to offshore wind developments are largely non-technical. They are not construction related. Instead they include complicated rules about who gets to build and disrupt the sea floor. They include legal battles between the impacts to ocean views and those that advocate a clean energy future. Earlier in 2016, the Obama Administration approved the offer of a 79,000-acre offshore lease off the coast of Long Island, 12 miles southeast of Jones Beach State Park.

European Offshore Wind: Yes, the United States is getting a slow start with offshore wind. The first offshore wind farm in the world was built in 1992 off the Danish coast. This past year alone, Europe installed about 100 times the Block Island capacity, ~3,000 MW of offshore wind power. Note that President-elect Donald Trump unsuccessfully fought an offshore wind farm off Scotland near one of his golf courses.

U.S. Terrestrial Wind Farms: Back on shore, the United States has been developing wind big time! At the end of 2015, the U.S. had 73,992 MW generating enough power to serve 20 million Americans. At that time there were 48,800 wind turbines in the country; fully 40 states have utility-scale wind farms; and there at least 88,000 workers in the domestic wind industry.

Texas: On November 27th, the State of Texas registered an all-time high record for wind output with 15,033 MW of capacity. That represented 45% of the total electricity demand in the state. Wind served an average of 41% of the State’s entire load that day. Texas has over 18,531 MW installed, more than any other state. This is due to high demand, strong wind resource, a permissive permitting environment, and major proactive state-based investments in transmission. Navigant Research notes that, “Texas has so much wind on its system that electricity retailers are offering plans to consumers that include free electricity at night.”

Germany: Last but not least, breaking news from Germany where renewables – fueled by a 57% increase in offshore wind – now account for 32% of total electricity generation. This level of generation represents 191 billion kWh of renewables, and puts Germany on track to reach a 35% renewable portfolio by 2020.