The U.S. wind industry is booming

The wind industry is blowing past previous milestones thanks to tailwinds that see the renewable energy source breezing past other energy sources.

Image Credit: Flickr/Ron Gilbert

That’s the word from a clutch of new U.S. Department of Energy reports showing record growth in onshore wind power, the pipeline for offshore wind booming, and declines in the cost of wind energy.

These are gusty days for the power market, and the Biden Administration is touting these advances as signs that it can hit the target of 100% clean electricity within the next 14 years.

“These reports contain such terrific news: the U.S. installed a record-breaking amount of land-based wind energy last year. They underscore both the progress made and the capacity for much more affordable wind power to come — all necessary to reach President Biden’s goal of a decarbonized electricity sector by 2035,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm, in a statement.

In all, wind energy installations in 2020 topped any other energy source accounting for 42% of new U.S. energy capacity. To date, that’s meant 116,800 jobs for people in the industry.

The Land-Based Wind Market Report indicated that around 16.8 gigawatts of new utility-scale land-based wind capacity came online in 2020. It’s a figure that equals a whopping $24.6 billion in new investments into wind power projects.

In states like Iowa wind power provided over half of the state’s electricity generation, and in Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and North Dakota, wind accounted for more than 30% of energy production. Kansas and North Dakota, however, are two states that remain heavily dependent on coal power for much of the rest of their electricity supply.

Installations are coming up in large part because costs are coming down. Wind power in almost every case is cheaper than any other source of energy generation (the same is true for solar). At the same time, the report indicated that health and climate benefits amounted to $76 per Megawatt hour, which is fare more than the cost of wind energy.

At the same time that onshore wind power is having its moment, the Biden Administration has already set the stage for the development of a new offshore wind industry.

To date, the U.S. trails most other developed countries that can build out offshore wind development. For instance, China, Germany, and the United Kingdom account for the bulk of offshore wind installation now — representing about 25 Gigawatts of the total 33 Gigawatts of offshore wind projects developed since 2002.

But the U.S. has a lot of room to grow. There’s about 35 Gigawatts of planed projects underway along the U.S. coastline — with 9.8 Gigawatts planned for the a region set up by the Bureau of Ocean Management off the New York coast.

State goals for offshore wind are expected to reach 40 Gigawatts by 2040.