Wind Energy Accounted for 42% New U.S. Capacity in 2020

Highlights :

  • More wind energy was installed in 2020 than any other energy source, accounting for 42% of new U.S. capacity, says the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
  • The DOE has released three reports showing record growth in land-based wind energy, significant expansion of the pipeline for offshore wind projects, and continued decline in the cost of wind energy generation.

More wind energy was installed in 2020 than any other energy source, accounting for 42% of new U.S. capacity, says the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). By contrast, solar amounted to only 38% of new capacity last year. The U.S. wind industry supports 116,800 jobs.

The DOE has released three reports showing record growth in land-based wind energy, significant expansion of the pipeline for offshore wind projects, and continued decline in the cost of wind energy generation – laying the groundwork for significant future gains as the Biden Administration seeks to accelerate renewable energy deployment to reach its goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035.

“These reports contain such terrific news: the U.S. installed a record-breaking amount of land-based wind energy last year. They underscore both the progress made and the capacity for much more affordable wind power to come – all necessary to reach President Biden’s goal of a decarbonized electricity sector by 2035,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

“At DOE, we will double down on efforts to deploy more wind energy around the country as we also pursue technologies to make turbines even cheaper and more efficient,” added Granholm.

The 2021 edition of the Land-Based Wind Market Report, prepared by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, detailed a record 16,836 megawatts (MW) of new utility-scale land-based wind power capacity added in 2020 – representing $24.6 billion of investment in new wind power projects. Other findings from the report include:

Wind energy provided more than 10% of total in-state electricity generation in 16 states. Most notably, wind power provided 57% of Iowa’s in-state electricity generation, while wind provided more than 30% of electricity in Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

New utility-scale land-based wind turbines were installed in 25 states in 2020. Texas installed the most capacity with 4,137 MW. Other leading states include Iowa, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Illinois, and Missouri — all of which added more than 1,000 MW of capacity in 2020.

Wind turbines continue to grow in size and power, leading to more energy produced at lower costs. The average nameplate capacity of newly installed wind turbines grew 8% from 2019 to 2.75 MW. Wind turbine prices have steeply declined from levels seen a decade ago, from $1,800/kW in 2008 to $770–$850 per kilowatt (kW) now. The health and climate benefits of wind energy installed in 2020 were valued at $76 per MWh, far greater than the cost of wind energy.

The 2021 edition of the Offshore Wind Market Report, prepared by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, found that the pipeline for U.S. offshore wind energy projects grew to 35,324 MW, a 24% increase over the previous year. Other details of the report include:

The Bureau of Ocean Management created five new wind energy areas in the New York Bight with a total of 9,800 MW of capacity, representing most of the 2020-2021 growth of the U.S. pipeline. The Block Island Wind Farm (30 MW) off the coast of Rhode Island and the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot (12 MW) are the first two projects operating off U.S. coasts.

Massachusetts’ Vineyard Wind I became the first approved commercial-scale offshore wind energy project in the United States.
Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Virginia all increased offshore wind procurement targets in 2020 and early 2021. In total, state goals grew by 15,600 MW, from about 24,000 MW by 2035 in 2019 to almost 40,000 MW by 2040.

The 2021 edition of the Distributed Wind Market Report, prepared by DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, noted that eleven states added a total of 14.7 MW of capacity, 1,493 turbines, and $41 million for new investment in distributed wind installations in 2020.

Cumulative U.S. distributed wind capacity stands at 1,055 MW from more than 87,000 wind turbines across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.

Agricultural and residential customers accounted for the largest percentage of distributed wind projects installed in 2020 (36% and 24%, respectively), while utility and industrial customers accounted for the largest share of distributed wind capacity installed (58% and 37%, respectively).

Small wind retrofits — new turbines installed on existing towers and foundations — have become more common, accounting for 80% of small wind capacity installed in 2020.

The three market reports can be accessed here.

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Soumya Duggal

Soumya is a master's degree holder in English, with a passion for writing. It's an interest she has directed towards environmental writing recently, with a special emphasis on the progress being made in renewable energy.

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