United States

United States

US wind continues to grow as economics beats Trump rhetoric

Donald Trump won the US presidential election in November 2016 with a promise to revitalise the country's coal industry.

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 At the same time he poured scorn, and spouted nonsense, over the costs and efficiency of renewable energy, particularly wind, which he has blamed for everything from causing human cancers to the wholesale slaughter of avian wildlife.

A little under three years later, and it is clear that Trump is fighting a losing battle. Coal’s share of US electricity generation was 30.4% in 2016. It fell to 27.4% by 2018, and will drop to 24% this year, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Almost 13GW of coal-fired generating capacity has been retired this year or is scheduled to close by the end of 2020. No replacements are planned.

Wind power’s trajectory has been in the opposite direction. Total capacity stood at 77GW in November 2016. It has now topped 100GW.

Wind supplied 6.6% of US electricity generation in 2018 from a total renewables share of 17.1%, and, says the EIA, it is now poised to overtake hydro as the country’s leading renewable power source.

No state shows the trend more clearly than Republican-supporting Texas. Wind capacity has grown over 40% — from 18.5GW to 26.1GW — since Trump took office.

During the first half of 2019, wind power edged above coal for the first time in recorded history, providing 22% of the state’s electricity.

That rose to 26% in April when winds were high, compared with just 19% from coal.

Weigh up the economic and environmental case for wind against the bombast and bravado of the president, and there is only one winner.

Timely response

Probably no other major wind-turbine OEM was hit harder than Enercon by the shift to competitive auctions.

The German manufacturer’s focus on durability and reliability left its turbines looking heavy and expensive compared with rival products.

Its new EP5 turbine range, derived from Lagerwey’s LP4 machine shows how quickly Enercon has responded to the changing market conditions.

Together with the smaller EP3 series, manufactured according to the same modular and weight-saving principles, the EP5 will give Enercon a strong presence in the rapidly growing 4MW-plus onshore sector.

It seems rare these days for a month to go past without a product announcement in this turbine class. August proved no exception, with Nordex revealing a 163-metre rotor for its 5.X platform.

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