Local wind powering more U.S. companies says PNNL report

The report discussed here, authored by Frances White at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, provides look at distributed wind in America

The 7.5-megawatt distributed wind project generates energy for the Whirpool and Ball corporations in Findlay, Ohio.

The 7.5-megawatt distributed wind project generates energy for the Whirpool and Ball corporations in Findlay, Ohio.

The 2015 Distributed Wind Market Report offers the fourth annual analysis of a growing field called distributed wind, which involves generating wind power near where it will be used instead of purchasing power from large, centralized wind farms. Distributed wind can range from a small, solitary turbine at a remote cabin to several large turbines powering an entire neighborhood. American companies are increasingly making their own power — and sales — with wind turbines located near the factories and buildings that consume the power they make, concludes a report released today.

“Wind plays a key role in the rising area of distributed energy,” said report co-author, Alice Orrell, an energy analyst at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“Although distributed wind is not as widespread as distributed solar, new third-party financing options similar to the lease model that spurred growth in the residential solar market could also grow distributed wind,” added PNNL energy analyst Nik Foster, the other co-author.

The report’s key findings include:

  • 37% of the new distributed wind capacity added in 2015 was for industrial uses, including factories, processing plants, and operation facilities.
    • Companies using distributed wind include the Whirlpool and Ball corporations in Ohio, soap manufacturer Method in Illinois, and Stafford County Flour Mills in Kansas.
  • Exports of U.S.-made small wind turbines, which generate up to 100 kilowatts, doubled from 2014 to 2015 — adding 21.5 megawatts of capacity in 2015. Small wind exports have accounted for more than $310 million in combined sales between 2012 and 2015.
    • Italy, the United Kingdom and Japan are among the largest importers of U.S.-made small wind turbines.
  • 28 MW of new U.S. distributed wind power capacity was added in 2015 by installing 1,713 turbines. This brings the U.S. to a total of 934 MW of distributed wind capacity and 75,000 turbines installed since 2003, or about 1 percent of all U.S. wind energy capacity installed since then.
  • Ohio, Nebraska and Connecticut led the U.S. in new distributed wind power capacity in 2015 — respectively adding 7.7, 7, and 5 MW due to a large project in each of those states.
  • The estimated cost of energy made from a sample of small distributed wind turbines was 11 cents/kWh in 2015, compared to overall residential electric rates that run between about 9 and 21 cents in the Continental U.S.
  • Annual distributed wind capacity additions have declined since 2012, when federal stimulus funding spurred renewable energy’s expansion.

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