The U.S. installed 9.1 gigawatts of new wind capacity in 2019, the market’s biggest year since 2012, pushing the country’s combined fleet of wind farms to 106 gigawatts, according to new numbers from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
All wind energy records in the U.S. are on shaky ground right now, with the market in the midst of a historic boom that’s expected to peak this year. But by any measure 2019 was a big year for the market, ranking as the third largest on record, fueled by the phase out of the industry’s main subsidy, the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC).
Berkshire Hathaway Energy topped perennial leader NextEra Energy in completing more new capacity than any other operator, thanks to the aggressive wind build-out underway at its Iowa utility, MidAmerican Energy. NextEra came in second place for new capacity, followed by Avangrid Renewables, Xcel Energy and Enel Green Power, according to AWEA’s figures.
On the equipment side, GE held on to its position as the leading supplier of wind turbines in its home market, having retaken the top spot from Vestas in 2018. GE claimed a commanding 45 percent share of the market for installed turbines last year, followed by Vestas (33 percent), Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (16 percent) and Nordex (6 percent).
Texas led the nation with 4 gigawatts of new capacity last year, followed by Iowa at 1.7 gigawatts — both new records for those states, described as "banner years for two of the leading states in the U.S. wind industry" by John Hensley, AWEA vice president for research and analytics.
Texas will continue to dominate the market for the foreseeable future, with another 6.2 gigawatts of wind farms under construction at the end of the year. Those projects will come on top of the Lone Star State’s nearly 29 gigawatts of operational wind capacity today — a fleet surpassed by only four countries globally, the U.S. included.
But while Texas will remain a huge wind market for years to come, 2019 saw an important longer-term shift in the U.S. market. Thanks to the snowballing offshore sector, states in New England and the Mid-Atlantic market — wind energy minnows, for the most part — stormed up the rankings for projects categorized as being in an “advanced development” stage.
Virginia, with a mere 12 megawatts of installed wind today, now has more advanced projects than any other state in the country, due to Dominion Energy’s decision to pursue a 2.6-gigawatt project off the coastline.
A pilot 12-megawatt project backed by Dominion is scheduled for completion this year off Virginia’s coast, and on Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that developer Ørsted will lease space at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, in what could be the first of many offshore wind supply-chain deals for the Hampton Roads area.
Likewise, New York now has 2.2 gigawatts of wind capacity in advanced development — more than the wind energy powerhouses of Texas and Oklahoma — thanks to its recent huge offshore contracts with Equinor and Ørsted.
AWEA considers a project to be in “advanced development” if it has a signed power-purchase agreement, a firm turbine order or is proceeding under utility ownership. Under that definition, there is now more wind capacity in advanced development in the Mid-Atlantic region than in the Great Plains or the Midwest.
Altogether, American states announced more than 16 gigawatts of new offshore wind targets in 2019 alone, bringing the total above 25 gigawatts, AWEA said.
The onshore wind market is expected to chart a new high in 2020 as developers rush to take advantage of the final year to build projects qualified for the full PTC. Installations will then taper off through the mid-2020s, when the offshore market begins to add serious capacity.
Unlike the solar industry, the wind sector in late 2019 secured a partial extension of the PTC, which analysts say will boost demand modestly in the 2023-2024 period.
Join Wood Mackenzie's upcoming wind webinar, Winds of change in onshore wind O&M - a look into 2020s, on February 20th, at 11:00am GMT.