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United States

Battle over US dominance heats up as GE retakes crown

GE inched ahead of Vestas for annual installations in 2018, but the Danish manufacturer supplied the single most-installed turbine in the US.

Vestas and GE battle it out in the US
Vestas and GE battle it out in the US

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GE Renewable Energy reclaimed its crown as the largest OEM by annual installations in the US in 2018, but Vestas retained a title of its own.

A little over 3GW of GE’s turbines contributed to the US’s 7.6GW total new capacity last year, with Vestas responsible for 2.89GW. The US’s total installation figure was up from 7GW in 2017.

The Danish manufacturer had held the title of largest OEM by installations in the US since 2016.

According to the data released by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and its WindIQ intelligence team, Vestas’ annual installations in the US actually grew 16% from 2.48GW in 2017.

However, GE’s installation total for 2018 increased by more than 55% to 3.01GW, boosted by the rush to install turbines ahead of the continuing production tax credit (PTC) phaseout making new onshore projects more difficult without some other kind of firm income.

GE also benefited from the increasing popularity of more powerful turbines. In 2017, the firm’s most popular model was its 2.3-116 machine, accounting for 841.8MW, a 43% share of the manufacturer’s total installed capacity for that year.

Last year, however, GE’s 2.5-116 was its most popular model, installed at 1,107.5MW of projects across the year, a 36.8% share. This was closely followed by its 2.5-127, with a slightly larger rotor, which totalled 742.5MW — 24.7% of GE’s market last year.

As the costs come down, sites with the best wind resources become harder to find, and with the phase out of the PTC, the desire for the latest and most efficient technology is seeing more, larger turbines being selected.

This is evident in the 3MW-plus turbine category. More than 1.83GW of turbines with capacities exceeding 3MW were installed in 2018 in the US, led by Vestas (965MW), just ahead of Nordex Acciona (866MW). This total is up from 1.38GW in 2017.  

Despite GE’s larger turbines becoming more popular, Vestas’ V110 model, in either a 2MW or 2.2MW configuration, was the most installed turbine in both 2017 and 2018 by capacity. 

The model made up 24% (1,652.8MW) of the total US installed market in 2017. It slipped to just over 16% (1,320.4MW) last year, but remained the single-most installed turbine.

Meanwhile, GE looks on course to retain its overall lead. According to AWEA’s report, GE had 6.4GW of capacity under construction or in advanced development, while Vestas had just over 6GW.

Changing fortunes

Beyond the top two OEMs in the US, which held over 75% of the market in 2018, Nordex Acciona leap-frogged Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) as the third-largest OEM by installation capacity.

The two recently merged manufacturers have had polar opposite fortunes in the US over the past three years.

Nordex Acciona installed just 93MW in the US in 2016, the year of its merger. Since then, however, it has grown to install 866MW last year.

This is driven mainly by the AW125 3MW platform proving increasingly popular. However, the N117 3MW platform was also installed at a site in North Dakota last year.  

This has seen its share of the US annual installation market grow from 1.1% to 11.4%.

SGRE, meanwhile, has seen its share in the US fall from 15% in 2016, prior to the two firms’ integration, to 8.3% in 2018. The company does, however, have a stronger near-term pipeline than Nordex, AWEA’s figures show.

There has also been a sizeable increase in market share by other turbine makers, mainly Goldwind Americas. The subsidiary of the Chinese heavyweight installed 171MW in 2018, up from just 1.5MW in 2016.  

US close to 100GW

As of the end of 2018, the US’s cumulative total stood at 96.5GW, with more than 56,800 wind turbines operating across 41 states, according to AWEA.

It is set to cross the 100GW milestone later this year.

By the end of Q4, projects totalling 2.1GW had started construction with a further 3.7GW in advanced development.

Almost 35.1GW is either under construction or in advanced development, said AWEA.

In Q4 installations alone, which totalled 5.94GW, Vestas accounted for 41% of installations with 2,456MW. GE captured 33% with Nordex at 15%, and SGRE with 11%.

Corporates

On the offtake side, Fortune 500 brands and other non-utility buyers purchased a record amount of wind power in 2018, almost matching utilities.

Customers such as telecommunications group AT&T, retailer Walmart, and oil and gas giants ExxonMobil and Shell Energy purchased a record 4.2GW of wind power capacity in 2018 via long-term power purchase agreements (PPA). Utilities signed contracts for 4.3GW of wind power in 2018.

Contracted wind capacity from non-utility customers — including universities and cities — in 2018 surged 66% higher than the previous record in 2015, said AWEA.

Indeed, data tracked by the Business Renewables Center indicated wind provided more energy to corporate brands than any other renewable source. In 2018 alone, US corporations purchased 6.5GW of wind, solar and other renewables.

"Businesses are responding to their customers by seeking out the lowest-cost clean energy they can find to power their products and operations reliably," said Tom Kiernan, chief executive of AWEA. "Wind power’s record-setting 2018 proves you really can have it all.

"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."

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