In a marker for the success of renewable energy in the US, wind power is now projected to surpass hydroelectric as the primary source for the nation’s renewable power, according to an announcement last week from the US Energy Information Administration.
Thanks to a wave of construction of new wind turbines, the sector is projected to produce 6.4 percent of utility-scale electricity in 2018, and 6.9 percent the following year, according to Huffington Post. With little new construction of hydroelectric plants, that sector’s generation will depend on rainfall and other factors. While hydroelectric provided 7.4 percent of utility-scale power in 2017, a year with extremely high rainfall, it is projected to produce just 6.5 percent this year and 6.6 the next.
According to Owen Comstock, EIA industry economist, in a press release:
“Although changes in weather patterns also affect wind generation, the forecast for wind power output is more dependent on the capacity and timing of new wind turbines coming online.”
For the first time ever, wind overtook hydroelectric power in February of last year, with triple the number of turbines operating than 9 years before, in 2008.
The US is expected to bolster its wind power capacity by 37 gigawatts between 2017 and 2020, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, with gains increasing each year – from 7 gigawatts in 2017 to a projected 11 gigawatts in 2020.
According Bloomberg New Energy Finance wind analyst Alex Morgan:
“What this means for generation is, basically, we’re seeing greater, bigger wind turbines, and more turbines that are better situated for the environment that they’re in. So, more bang for your buck.”
In part, the surge in construction has relied on the production tax credit, which congress renewed for five years in 2015. Last year saw the credit begin to phase down by 20 percent, leading to a surge in construction to take advantage of the credit. However, financial incentives will likely continue on a state level. Offshore wind generation, widespread in Europe, is expected to increase from just 5 turbines off of Block Island, Rhode Island, to increase significantly in the coming decade.
Wind power has proven itself especially effective during the recent increase in extreme weather patterns and large storms in the US.
“Wind power has increasingly been a key energy resource during extreme weather events, such as the recent ‘bomb cyclone,’” said Dylan Reed, from Advanced Energy Economy, speaking to Huffington Post.
“It’s no surprise to see wind power gaining in generation nationally like this as it now competes on long-term contract price in many markets across the U.S.”