Wind power gains ground in 2018, but faces challenges at federal level

August 29, 2019

A trio of reports from the U.S. Department of Energy showed a continued upward trend in wind energy capacity and employment in 2018, as the cost per megawatt (MW) continued to drop due to larger and more efficient turbines. However, the possible elimination of federal tax incentives could slow the long-term growth of wind power, the report cautioned.

The 2018 Wind Markets Report found that, overall, an additional 7,588 MW of new capacity were added during the year, spurred by $11 billion in investments. “Wind power represented the third-largest source of U.S. electric-generating capacity additions in 2018, behind solar and natural gas,” according to the report.

Overall, wind power contributed 6.5 percent of the country’s electricity supply in 2018, more than 10 percent of the electricity total in 14 states, and more than 30 percent in three of these 14 states (Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma).

The report also found that the national average price of wind power purchase agreements (PPAs) dropped to below 2 cents per kilowatt hour, down from 7 cents per kilowatt hour in 2009. Employment reached 114,000 full-time workers in 2018, an 8 percent increase from 2017.

The report predicted continued short-term growth due in large part to government incentives, with the addition of 9,000 to 12,000 MW in 2019, and 11,000 to 15,000 MW in 2020 “with market contraction anticipated beginning in 2021 as those tax incentives are phased out.”

These federal tax incentives include the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

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