2020: A shift is coming to the U.S. wind industry
This year for the U.S. wind industry will be one of transition, as spending shifts from installation to operations and maintenance. But before that, the country is going to install a lot of wind megawatts.
Industry researcher Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables expects the United States to add 14.6 GW of wind capacity in 2020 — a record-breaking installation amount. The wind industry’s strongest year before this was 2012 with 13.1 GW. This 2020 peak comes via the final phasedown of the production tax credit (PTC) in 2021, which has wind developers rushing to complete projects in 2020 to get the full credit amount (if their projects started in 2016). With big installation numbers comes the potential for connection delays and permitting bottlenecks.
“The lack of available logistical resources will begin to cause schedule rearrangements and delays that will grow more apparent during the first and second quarters of 2020,” said Anthony Logan, lead author of the WoodMac report. In fact, the report assumes 6.6 GW of projects scheduled for 2020 will not reach completion in time and will instead connect to the grid in 2021.
As the PTC disappears, WoodMac forecasts the United States to add 12.3 GW of wind power in 2021 before bottoming out at 5.9 GW in 2024. As wind turbine installations slow, more focus will be spent on maintaining the cumulative 100 GW of wind capacity installed thus far throughout the country.
But there is one thing that could change everything: offshore wind turbines.
The United States has an offshore wind potential of more than 2,000 GW — nearly double the nation’s current electricity use. With one 30-MW offshore project off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island, and many more plans proposed, the United States could shift wind installation from land to water in a big way.
Vineyard Wind hoped to own the title of “first offshore wind project in U.S. federal waters,” but its 800-MW Vineyard Wind I project off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, has hit permitting delays. The new frontrunner is utility Dominion Energy, which has received the go-ahead to build the 12-MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project this year. The two-turbine project may be small, but all major development plans have to start somewhere. Dominion Energy has proposed a 2.6-GW offshore wind portfolio off Virginia’s coast after successful deployment of the CVOW project.
Renewable energy leader California has also taken notice. A coalition of wind industry leaders launched the group Offshore Wind California last year to promote the responsible and sustainable deployment of offshore wind power in the state’s energy system. The group urged California to set a goal of reaching a minimum of 10 GW of offshore wind by 2040. NREL has estimated California’s potential for offshore wind at 112 GW.
The wind industry will have an interesting 2020 with record-breaking deployment and the beginnings of a shift to offshore wind development. Welcome to a new decade in wind.