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United States

AWEA 2018: US wind power industry facing a 'tumultuous time'

UNITED STATES: The growth in installed onshore and offshore wind capacity in the US will be some 39GW by 2021, according to Make Consulting.

Offshore wind will pick up strongly enough that by 2025-2027, fully 25% of the US’s wind growth will be offshore, said the consultancy's Dan Shreve.

There will be 5GW off offshore installed by 2027, Make forecasts.

It’s a "tumultuous" time in the industry, said Shreve, speaking at the Make breakfast on the opening day of Windpower 2018 in Chicago.

There is a boom under way as OEMs and developers rush in to capitalise on the Production Tax Credit (PTC) before it is phased out in the early 2020s.

During that time, there will be more consolidation of companies in the wind sector, he said.

But there will be a "soft landing" after the phase-out, he predicted, because of the spate of wind purchase announcements by utilities and corporate buyers.

Indeed corporate purchases will continue to accelerate, because wind makes economic sense for them, he said.

However, the nation’s net load growth will be less than 1% by 2028, a lag in demand that will be somewhat ameliorated by the pick-up in the charging of a growing fleet of electric vehicles.

The load growth is less than the 2% that had been previously forecast, he said.

Coal plant retirements are under way, with as much as 12-13GW forecast this year alone, a boon for wind. But despite the inroads of green power, with its zero CO2 emissions and lower-than-ever cost, there will still be 190GW of coal and 90GW of nuclear online in the US in 2028, predicts Make.

Shreve said he does not expect much policy change that will benefit wind power under the remaining term of President Donald Trump, but with a new administration a carbon tax might be adopted, he predicted.

In states such as Texas and Michigan, the levelised cost of solar electricity at some sites will drop below that of wind in about 2023. "Wind needs increasing value," said Shreve.

Shreve said that within a year, he expects other OEMs will match GE’s 12MW offshore turbine plans with their own announcements of offshore turbines of that scale. "[GE’s plans] will probably be trumped within a year by Siemens-Gamesa, and possibly by MHI Vestas," he said.

He mentioned the restrictive and archaic Jones Act, which requires all cargo shipped between US ports to be on US-flagged and US-owned vessels. For the 30MW Block Island project, the US's first offshore wind project, components had to be shipped from Europe, with the vessel docking at the offshore site and ‘feeder’ vessels going to and from local ports.

The US needs ten years of an identifiable offshore pipeline for US-flagged vessels large enough for offshore wind components to be brought into service, he said.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is holding its Windpower 2018 conference and exhibition in Chicago (7-10 May). Windpower Monthly will bring all of the coverage from the show across the week. www.windpowermonthly.com/awea-2018 

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