Happy New Year! It may be time to say goodbye to 2018 but it was a significant year for the wind industry in the United States — and much of the credit can go to the development of offshore wind. Even as the year wound down in December, a record-breaking Massachusetts offshore wind auction reaped $405 million in winning bids. Those three lease areas are expected to support 4.1 GW of wind-generation capacity, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which conducted the auction.
U.S. offshore auction bids continued right until December 31. New Jersey Board of Public Utilities received offers from three developers late in December, which were in response to its September 20, 2018, solicitation for 1,100 MW of offshore wind. This represents the largest single-state solicitation to date and paves the way for an exciting, yet hectic 2019.
It’s no secret that the wind energy and marine supply chain — including ports, vessels, and component suppliers — will be tested in the coming years to keep up with the pace and demand of offshore wind development in the country.
Last year also brought advances in onshore wind. U.S. wind farms surpassed 90,550 MW of electricity generating capacity, found the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). This is, in part, thanks to higher-capacity wind turbines. In fact, 2018 brought new orders for land-based wind turbines above 4 MW for the first time. This is a leap considering average utility-scale turbine installed in 2017 was rated at 2.32 MW.
The low cost and reliability of wind have continued to drive strong industry growth that is still pushing forward. AWEA predicts that seven states (Arkansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wyoming, Maryland and Massachusetts) will soon build enough wind turbines to more than double their wind-power capacity.
Before looking too far into the future, however, let’s take a quick look back to appreciate the progress wind power made in America last year. Here are five of our top stories from 2018.
1. Offshore wind…yes, it’s finally coming to America
Although offshore wind energy is still in the early stages of development in the United States, policymakers, and developers are working diligently to push the industry forward. According to the Department of Energy, the U.S. offshore wind project pipeline has reached a total of 25,464 MW of capacity across 13 states. And at least 2,000 MW is expected to begin commercial operation by 2023 or sooner.
2. At last! National standards to prevent dropped objects
A small one to two-pound wrench might not seem like much of a safety hazard, but an accidental drop from atop of a wind tower could result in life-threatening injury. A new national standard aims to reduce dropped objects at work sites, such as wind farms. The International Safety Equipment Association and American National Standards Institute have developed this first-in-the-industry standard to increase worksite safety and reduce the risk of dropped objects incidents in industrial and occupational settings.
3. Simulation software is improving the wind industry
Software is a must-have at wind farms for condition monitoring. However, advances in algorithms and predictive monitoring mean engineers and wind owners can understand the causes of wind-farm underperformance, minimize wear on turbine components, and — perhaps most importantly — increase a project’s power output and return on investment.
4. How drones may optimize offshore wind-turbine inspections
A few years ago, sending wind technicians up-tower was the O&M option to conduct turbine tower and blade inspections. Advancements in drone technology, however, have turned such labor-intensive maintenance efforts into a more precise, streamlined process — and one that’s bound to serve the offshore wind market.
5. Mitigating cyber attacks on the power grid
Turns out the battle between virus and host is proving similar whether biological (such as a cold or flu) or virtual (such as a cyber attack). So new DOE-funded research, with engineers at GE Global, will build the world’s first industrial immune system for power projects — such as wind farms — which can detect, locate, and neutralize cyber threats much like the human immune system fights viruses that infect the body.