Fortune 500 brands and a range of other non-utility entities are catalyzing America’s growing demand for renewable energy by purchasing a record amount of wind power in 2018, according to a recent report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Consumer demand combined with policy stability and low, stable prices helped wind power capacity installations rise to the third strongest quarter in the industry’s history.
AWEA’s U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2018 Market Report reveals that non-utility customers like AT&T, Walmart, ExxonMobil and Shell Energy purchased a record 4,203 MW of wind power capacity in 2018 through power purchase agreements (PPA). Contracted wind capacity from non-utility customers in 2018 surged 66% higher than the previous high-water mark in 2015. Data from the Business Renewables Center confirms that wind provides more energy to corporate brands than any other renewable source.
“A rapidly growing number of big brands and utilities clearly understand that for American consumers, it’s no longer enough for energy to be affordable and reliable, it must also be clean,” said Tom Kiernan, chief executive officer of AWEA. “Businesses are responding to their customers by seeking out the lowest-cost clean energy they can find to power their products and operations reliably.”
Polls find strong public support for more wind power among Americans on a non-partisan basis.
Wind power also continues to be a popular choice for major utilities. Utilities signed contracts for 4,304 MW of wind power in 2018 that, when combined with non-utility purchases, reached the highest level on record for overall PPA activity with 8,507 MW in 2018.
Strong consumer demand and stable policy also helped the industry surge to its third strongest quarter on record for new wind power capacity additions. New wind farms totaling 5,944 MW were installed nationally in the fourth quarter of 2018.
New wind farm installations in the fourth quarter were concentrated in the “American Wind Belt,” from Texas up through North Dakota. Texas continues to hold a wide lead in first place. Notably, Iowa reclaimed second place for total installed wind capacity from Oklahoma. South Dakota joined the Gigawatt Club of states with more than 1,000 MW of installed wind capacity, making it the 19th state to do so.
In total, the industry commissioned 7,588 MW of wind power capacity in 2018. There are now 96,488 MW of cumulative installed wind capacity in the U.S., with more than 56,800 wind turbines operating across 41 states.
Low, stable prices are a large piece of wind power’s value to buyers. The cost of wind has fallen by 69% since 2009, falling 7% in 2018 alone, according to investment firm Lazard.
With a robust pipeline of new wind farms under construction or in advanced development, wind power’s strong 2018 is continuing this year. Projects totaling 2,125 MW started construction and a further 3,661 MW entered the advanced development phase in the quarter. There are now 35,095 MW of wind power capacity either under construction (16,521 MW) or in advanced development (18,574 MW), a 22% year-over-year increase in the development pipeline.
As with land-based wind farms, momentum is accelerating for the U.S. offshore wind market. Major energy businesses like Equinor, Orsted and Shell are competing to be the first to harness American offshore wind at scale. Strong support from the Trump Administration and coastal states, including New York’s nation-leading 9 GW offshore wind target, has sparked investor confidence and sets the stage for a great offshore energy boom. In December 2018, winning bids for three Massachusetts lease areas generated a combined $405 million in federal revenue, smashing the previous record bid of $43 million for a New York lease area.
AWEA is the national trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry, representing 1,000 member companies and over 100,000 jobs in the U.S. economy.