Report highlights technology development and value of wind power – ScienceDaily

According to a report released by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and prepared by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), wind power continues to see strong growth, solid performance and attractive prices in the US. With a levelized cost of more than $30 per megawatt-hour (MWh) for newly built projects, the cost of wind dwarfs its grid-system, health, and climate benefits.

“Wind energy prices – particularly in the central United States, and supported by federal tax incentives – remain low even with ongoing supply chain pressures, as utilities and corporate buyers select wind as a low-cost option,” said Ryan Wiser. Berkeley Lab’s senior scientist in the field of energy technology. “Taking into account the health and climate benefits of wind power makes the economy better,” he added.

Key findings from DOE’s annual “Ground-Based Wind Market Report” include:

Wind comprises an increasing share of the electricity supply. U.S. wind power capacity grew at a strong pace in 2021, with 13.4 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity added, representing $20 billion in investment and 32% of all U.S. capacity additions. Wind power generation grew to account for more than 9% of the entire nation’s electricity supply. At least 247 GW of wind is seeking access to the transmission system; 77 GW of this capacity is offshore wind, and 19 GW are hybrid plants that combine wind with energy storage or solar.

• Wind project performance has increased over the decades. The average capacity factor (a measure of project performance) in recently completed projects was around 40%, much higher than previously constructed projects. The highest capacity factors are seen in the interior of the country.

• Turbines continue to get bigger. Improved plant performance is driven by larger turbines mounted on taller towers and featuring longer blades. In 2011, no turbines used blades 115 m in diameter or larger, but in 2021, 89% of newly installed turbines had such rotors. The proposed projects indicate that the total turbine height will increase.

• Low wind turbine pricing has reduced installed project costs over the past decade. Wind turbine prices averaged $800 to $950/kilowatt (kW) in 2021, a 5% to 10% increase over the previous year but significantly lower than in 2010. The average installed cost of wind projects in 2021 was $1,500/kW, down 40% from the peak in 2010, though steady in recent years. The lowest cost was found in Texas.

• Wind power prices in the country’s interior “wind belt” are higher, but lower, at about $20/MWh. After topping out at $75/MWh for power purchase agreements executed in 2009, the national average price of wind has declined — although supply-chain pressures have pushed prices up in recent years. In the interior “wind belt” of the country, current pricing is around $20/MWh. In the West and East, prices average above $30/MWh. These prices, which are possible in part because of federal tax support, are lower than the projected future fuel costs of gas-fired generation.

• Wind prices are often attractive compared to wind grid-system market prices. The price of wind power sold in wholesale electricity markets is affected by the location of wind plants, their hourly production profiles, and how those characteristics relate to real-time electricity prices and capacity markets. Market prices for wind increased in 2021 and varied regionally from less than $20/MWh to more than $40/MWh, a range roughly consistent with recent wind power prices.

• The average levelized cost of wind energy for plants built in 2021 was $32/MWh. Levelized costs vary by time and geography, but the national average remains at $32/MWh in 2021 — well below historically, though consistent with the previous three years. (The cost estimate does not account for the impact of federal tax incentives for wind.)

• In 2021 wind’s health and climate benefits were greater than its grid-system value, and all three combined far exceeded the current levelized cost of wind. Wind generation reduces power-sector emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. These reductions, in turn, provide public health and climate benefits that vary regionally, but are economically valued at an average of $90/MWh-wind for plants built in 2021.

Berkeley Lab’s contribution to this report was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Wind Energy Technology.

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