Wind doing just fine
Sep 1, 2011 - Bill Opalka - energybiz.com
The U.S. wind industry declined by half last year, but a new report puts the development slowdown in a different. Yes, 2010 wasn't so great, but the U.S. is still a world leader for the technology.
With 5,000 megawatts of new capacity, the U.S. remained one of the fastest-growing wind power markets in the world in 2010 - second only to China -- according to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Energy and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).
"The delayed impact of the global financial crisis, relatively low natural gas and wholesale electricity prices, and slumping overall demand for energy combined to slow demand for new wind power installations in 2010," says Ryan Wiser, one of the authors of the study.
Last year followed record-setters in both 2008 and 2009, when 8,000 megawatts, then 10,000 megawatts, respectively, were installed.
Wind power comprised 25 percent of new U.S. electric capacity additions in 2010 and represented $11 billion in new investment.
Some other highlights of the 2010 U.S. Department of Energy's "Wind Technologies Market Report" include:
Wind turbine manufacturers continue to localize production. Nine of the eleven wind turbine manufacturers with the largest share of the U.S. market in 2010 now have one or more manufacturing facilities in the United States - compared to just one such manufacturer with a domestic presence as recently as 2004.
A growing percentage of the equipment used in U.S. wind power projects is domestically manufactured. When presented as a fraction of total equipment-related wind turbine costs, imports have declined significantly from 65% in 2005-2006 to roughly 40% in 2009-2010.
Wind turbine prices have declined substantially since 2008. Price quotes for recent wind turbine transactions are in the range of $900-$1,400/kW, suggesting price declines of as much as 33% or more since late 2008, with an average decline closer to 20% for orders announced in 2010.
Turbine price reductions, coupled with improved turbine technology, are expected to exert downward pressure on total project costs and wind power prices over time. Wind power cost and price reductions were not evident for projects installed in 2010, on average, as costs were driven by turbines ordered at higher prices in previous years.
The report also looked ahead, making projections are for modest growth in 2011 and 2012. Lower wind turbine and wind power pricing, along with key federal incentives for wind energy that are in place through 2012, are expected to lead to modest growth in annual wind power capacity additions in 2011 relative to 2010, and with an even better year predicted in 2012.
Capacity growth is expected to remain below the 2009 high. That's because of the relatively low wholesale electricity prices and limited need for new electric capacity additions. Forecasts for 2013, meanwhile, are highly uncertain and depend in part on assumptions about the possible extension of federal incentives beyond 2012.