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Wind power cost plummets to all-time low as capacity grows

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PostedAugust 10, 2015 by in International
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Wind power cost plummets to all-time low as capacity grows

Read this Aug. 10 story Ars Technica story by John Timmer on the continuing drop in the cost of wind power, as nine US states now generate more than 10% of their electricity from wind.

After years of uninterrupted success, wind power experienced a bit of a pause around the start of this decade. Prices for hardware reversed a decline and bounced upwards slightly, with installations dropping accordingly. But a new report from the Department of Energy shows that this bounce is now over. The price paid for wind-generated electricity has now reached an all-time low, and construction is bouncing back. Still, regulatory uncertainty may now be creating a boom/bust cycle for wind.

The report starts by reviewing the size of the wind market in the US. In 2014, it represented a quarter of the new additions to the US’ generating capacity, a bit down from the average of 2007-2014, when it represented a third. Just under five GigaWatts were installed by the US, placing it third, and well behind China’s 23GW. China now has nearly doubled the US 66GW of cumulative capacity.

Because of the US’ excellent wind resources, however, it led the world in generating electricity last year. As a percentage of a country’s total electricity generated by wind, the US ranked 15th, at roughly five percent. There are sharp regional differences however, with nine states generating more than double that percentage of their electricity using wind, led by Iowa, which generated 29 percent of its energy from the air.

Domestic job growth in the market went up by nearly half (from 50,500 to 73,000 jobs). A number of manufacturing plants closed, however, as the market consolidated around three companies: GE, Siemens, and Vestas had 98 percent of the US market.

Newly installed wind power continued to focus on sites with lower wind speeds. While turbine height was stable at 80m and capacity stable at 2MW, the average rotor diameter rose about 5m to 100m. (A larger rotor allows more wind to be harvested.) The use of less windy sites has partly offset improved hardware, leaving capacity factor—the fraction of a rotor’s rated generation that’s actually used—at about 33 percent.

If all these trends are somewhat ambiguous, there are two figures that are not: the costs of building wind farms and the amount the people who own them are charging for their electricity. Capacity weighted costs were about $35 per MegaWatt-hour in the 1980s; by the 2000s, this had dropped to $10/MW-hr, and it is now down to about $9. The newer hardware is also cheaper to maintain, even after adjusting for the low number of years it’s been in use.

READ MORE: http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/08/doe-wind-power-2014-report-finds-its-dropping-dramatically-in-cost/

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7 Comments


  1.  
    Lisa

    Is anyone smart enough to know what windmills are made out of? At least 70% of a windmill is made of steel. Steel is made by mixing coking coal and ore. Greenies whine about coal being a dirty fossil fuel but they love their bird and bat killing windmills. 1 megawatt of wind capacity requires around 220 tonnes of coal.

    Replacing a billion barrels of oil with these stupid monstrosities would require you to cover the majority of Alberta with them. Then the funny thing is that you still have to back up this intermittent and unreliable source of energy with fossil fuels.

    Germany was touted as the leader in renewables and it has been a boondoggle. They’ve paid through the nose for renewables only to realize that they were stupid to close down their nuclear plants. They had to fire up all their coal plants and, as a result, emissions have increased.

    Greenies also can’t seem to grasp that renewables won’t get food to their table or consumer products to market. The last time I checked, cargo ships and trucks bring us food. They run on diesel which is made from heavier crude-the same stuff you all hate.

    Common sense seems to be truly lacking. We can really only compete on the global market with oil and, as a result, we have a petro dollar. Greenies don’t want to allow us access to tidewater and the easterners prefer to pump Saudi and Venezuelan oil which is more expensive. Never mind that they commit human rights violations and use the money to fund terrorism even. They have sub par environmental practices and have declared a price war on us.

    Social license has gone too far. We are at the mercy of the self-righteous and the uninformed.




  2.  
    Richard

    I suggest everyone interested see the excellent documentary “Windfall”, to see just how bad wind farms can be.




  3.  
    Richard

    While this is positive and exciting, we must not forget that in many places wind farms are having a horrifying impact. They are destroying the character of small towns. They are dividing communities, as those that do not benefit bear the costs (decreased quality of life, lower property values), while absentee large landowners (usually big US corporations) reap the benefits (profit). Counties across the US are scrambling to ban wind farms.

    I agree we need them. The are a big part of the solution. But the present system of situating wind farms is deeply flawed. We don’t want to wreck the planet to save it.




    •  
      nonconfidencevote

      Pray tell, other than solar, wind and geothermal. What else is there? Harnessing Cow manure methane?




      •  
        Salal

        Perhaps we could harness the hot air that emanates from Energy Minister Bill Bennett’s mouth.




      •  
        Lisa

        Methane is a huge problem and emmits tons of GHS. People who eat animal products and whine about GHG from oil and gas are massive hypocrites. Let’s shut down farming. Makes about as much sense as shutting down the oil and gas industry.

        They also use the 6000 or so petroleum products, many on a daily basis. Not sure what they think life saving hospital equipment is made from or even pharmaceuticals. They consume them but point their fingers at the industries that simply provide them with the products they have an insatiable appetite for.

        Greenies should be forced to take economics courses. Sadly, their ignorance is going to ruin our economy.




  4.  
    nonconfidencevote

    One of my relatives has been involved in the contruction and repair of wind turbines for over 10 years.
    He works all over North America.
    I spoke with him during a private “tour” of a wind farm and he explained the cost saving are coming from “learning from their mistakes”.
    ie Certain designs/ manufacturors were a maintenance nightmare so they stopped buying them.
    Maintenance procedures have been streamlined to cut days off of major repairs/ replacements.
    Turbine control software is helping to reduce damage during normal and extremem operations.

    Really cutting edge technology and environmentally friendly to boot.
    It can only get better.





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