United States

United States

US wind shatters records in 2020 with 16.9GW connected to grid

The US wind sector had its strongest ever year in 2020 and its strongest ever quarter in Q4

Xcel Energy's 522MW Sagamore project is the US' largest operational, single-phase wind farm in the US
Xcel Energy's 522MW Sagamore project is the US' largest operational, single-phase wind farm in the US

US wind farm commissioning hit record levels in 2020, with an all-time high of 16.9GW connected to the grid throughout the year,. In the fourth quarter alone, 10.6GW grid-connected – more than in any full year, except 2012.

There is now 122.4GW of US operational wind capacity, according to the American Clean Power Association’s (ACP’s) fourth-quarter report.

Developers rushed to grid-connect projects before the end of the year due to the anticipated expiration of federal tax incentives, the ACP noted.

Strong demand grwoth and technological improvements also underpinned the sector last year.

The ACP's CEO Heather Zichal said: “2020 was a banner year for the wind industry.

“Despite all the challenges Covid-19 placed on our businesses, we still shattered nearly every record for capacity and growth.”

Capacity was added in 26 different US states last year. And the 16,913GW grid-connected was 85% up on 2019. It was also 26% up on the 13.3GW added in 2012 – the previous record year.

And the 10,593MW connected in the fourth quarter was also a record quarterly high – 26% up on the 8.3GW added in Q4 2012, which was the previous record. Fourth-quarter additions included the US' largest and fourth-largest single-phase wind farms: Xcel Clean Energy's 522MW Sagamore Sagamore (522MW) OnshoreRoosevelt County, New Mexico, USA, North America Click to see full details wind farm in New Mexico, and RES Group's 492MW Maverick Creek Maverick Creek (492MW) OnshoreConcho County, Texas, USA, North America Click to see full details project in Texas, respectively.

This level of commissioning also caused a 20% drop in total pipeline activity from the previous quarter. There is now 34,757MW of wind capacity under construction or in advanced development in the US.

The highest proportion of this pipeline capacity is in federal waters (26%), followed by Texas (13%), Wyoming (10%), Oklahoma (7%), Kansas (5%) and New Mexico (4%). There are currently 11 states with more than 1GW in the near-term pipeline.

Developers announced 3,834MW in combined new development activity in the fourth quarter, with 3,334MW of projects starting construction and an additional 500MW entering advanced development.

However, they continued to report challenges raising tax equity for projects in development due to economic uncertainty, tighter lending standards and constrained tax equity supply, the ACP noted.

Meanwhile, power purchase agreements (PPAs) were down due to the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, ACPA stated. There was 700MW of new PPAs announced in the fourth quarter and 5,444MW of new PPAs across the whole year – both of which were less than the tallies one year earlier.

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