Wind Passes Water as US Renewable Energy Source

Wind energy has surpassed hydropower as the biggest source of renewable electricity in the United States following the sector’s second-biggest quarter ever for new installations, a wind industry trade group said Thursday.

Wind installations totaled 82,183 megawatts at the end of 2016, enough to power 24 million homes, the American Wind Energy Association said in its fourth-quarter market report.

By comparison, U.S. hydroelectric capacity is about 80,000 megawatts, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.

Big fourth quarter for wind

Wind installations soared to 6,478 MW in the fourth quarter, accounting for nearly 80 percent of all of last year’s wind installations. The fourth quarter was the industry’s largest for installed capacity since the fourth quarter of 2012.

The 8,303 MW added for the year represented more than $13.8 billion in investment.

Just three turbine makers — General Electric Co, Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Siemens AG — accounted for up to 95 percent of the U.S. turbine market in 2016.

Texas has more than 20 MW of installed wind capacity, or nearly a quarter of the market. Iowa is the second-biggest wind state, and Oklahoma overtook California for third place at the end of 2016.

The first offshore wind project in the United States also came online in the fourth quarter, the 30 MW Block Island wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island.

More wind power coming

More than 10,000 MW of wind is under construction in the United States, about half of which is in Texas. New Mexico’s wind industry is growing rapidly, with 1,300 MW under construction. Once completed, those projects will double the size of New Mexico’s installed wind capacity. 

Corporations and others outside the utility industry have become major purchasers of wind energy, accounting for 39 percent of capacity contracted in 2016. Projects for Google, Amazon and General Motors were completed in the fourth quarter.

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