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Highlights from a third quarter wind boom

Highlights from a third quarter wind boom
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We’ve finished running the numbers, and the figures once again show an industry on the upswing. The third quarter proved to be an exciting one for the U.S. wind industry, with more projects under construction than ever before, record volumes of corporate power purchase agreements (PPAs), and seven states on their way to more than double their wind capacity.

AWEA released the U.S. Wind Industry Third Quarter 2018 Market Report this week, showing 612 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity installed in the third quarter, bringing total capacity in the U.S. to 90,550 MW. That means there is enough wind power on the grid to supply the electricity needs of 27 million American homes, and much more is on the way.

Over 20,000 MW of new wind capacity under construction, another 17,000 MW in advanced development

The new wind project pipeline is currently about as big as it’s ever been. Construction activity reached a new record of 20,798 MW at the end of the third quarter, with construction underway on 107 projects across 23 states. For comparison, Texas currently has just over 23,000 MW of wind capacity. That means we’re currently building a Texas-sized amount of wind.

Another 17,167 MW of wind capacity are in advanced development, bringing total activity in the U.S. to 37,965 MW, a 28 percent year-over-year increase. Project developers announced 4,507 MW in combined new activity during the third quarter as projects totaling 2,180 MW started construction and another 2,327 MW entered advanced development.

Notably, seven states now have enough wind projects under construction or in advanced development to more than double their capacity to generate electricity from wind once completed. This includes heartland states with land-based wind under development—Arkansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming—as well as coastal states Maryland and Massachusetts, where offshore wind is poised to scale up.

CORPORATE CUSTOMERS SIGN RECORD AMOUNT OF POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENTS

Wind power’s low and stable prices continued to drive strong demand from utilities and corporate customers in the third quarter. This customer group signed up 945 MW of wind power in the third quarter, including first-time purchases by Smucker’s, Boston University, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Over the last several years, non-utility customers including major consumer brands, cities and universities have become a major source of demand for wind power. In just three quarters of 2018, non-utility wind energy customers signed contracts for more wind power capacity than any other year, for a total of 2,904 MW. Cumulatively, non-utility purchasers have signed up for over 10,600 MW of wind energy, which is more wind than in all of Oklahoma, America’s number two wind state.

Corporates aren’t the only ones looking to add more wind energy – utilities across the country have signed contracts for 4,645 MW so far in 2018, bringing total PPA volume for the year to 7,550 MW. PPA activity in the first three quarters of 2018 already exceeds total activity in each of the last four years.

More powerful turbines on the way

Wind turbine technology continues to improve, with manufacturers introducing more productive, higher capacity turbines. The third quarter saw the first orders for 4 MW land-based wind turbines, with announcements from turbine manufacturers Senvion and Vestas. These new turbines are nearly twice as powerful as the average wind turbine installed in 2017 and are capable of powering roughly 1,400 homes each. The preference for 3 MW and larger platforms is also growing. Currently, 30 percent of projects underway that have already selected a turbine model went with a 3 MW or larger platform. The choice of more powerful turbines is noticeable in lower wind resource regions such as the Great Lakes.

Be sure to check out the full report for additional details. You can see more state level facts from the third quarter in the AWEA state fact sheets, as well as a map of all online wind projects and U.S. wind-related factories on our website.

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Celeste Wanner is a Research Analyst on AWEA's Industry Data and Analysis team. In this role, Celeste collects, verifies, and reports industry market data on wind-related manufacturing facilities, M&A activity, utility integrated resource planning, and turbine orders. In addition, Celeste analyzes state RPS requirements and demand for wind energy. Celeste holds dual Master of Public Affairs and Master of Science in Environmental Science degrees with concentrations in Energy and Environmental Policy from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

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