Photographer: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg
climate-changed

The U.S. Added Wind Power at a Leisurely Pace in 2017

The U.S. added 15 percent less wind power last year than in 2016 as developers paused for breath, safe in the knowledge that a federal tax credit doesn’t run out until 2020.

New installations reached 7 gigawatts in 2017, down from 8.2 gigawatts the prior year, the American Wind Energy Association said in a report Tuesday. The projects represent $11 billion in private investment. Wind farms under construction or in advanced development total 28.7 gigawatts, a 34 percent increase compared with 2016.

Developers may claim the full tax credit through at least 2020 if, for example, they spent at least 5 percent of total project costs before the end of 2016, even if physical construction was months, or even years, away. Fourth-quarter installations fell to 4.1 gigawatts, the lowest since 2014, while 2 gigawatts came on line in the first three months of 2017, the most since 2009. Some developers purchased turbines before the end of 2016 to capture the tax credit.

A Little Less Mighty

U.S. wind installations decline for a second straight year

Source: American Wind Energy Association

“There was no rush for projects to come online in 2017 because they can still trigger the 100 percent production tax credit through 2020 at least,” Alex Morgan, a New York-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said by email.

Meanwhile, developers took advantage of performance-boosting technology and completed 2.1 gigawatts of upgrades across 15 project phases in 2017. The upgrades, which include nacelle replacement or complete replacement of a turbine’s rotor and blades, increased total capacity at the 15 projects by 7 megawatts. NextEra Energy Inc., the largest owner of wind assets, completed the most partial repowerings during 2017 at 1.6 gigawatts.

In other highlights from the report:

  • Oklahoma surpassed Iowa in the fourth quarter to rank second in total installed wind capacity.
  • New long-term contracts for wind energy totaled 710 megawatts during the fourth quarter and 5,496 megawatts for the year, the most since 2013.

— With assistance by Brian Eckhouse

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