In 2019, 9.1 GW of new wind power was brought online, representing 39% of new utility-scale power additions. With these additions, operating wind power capacity in the United States now stands at over 105 GW, making it the largest renewable energy provider in the country, supplying more than 7% of the nation’s electricity in 2019.
The newly released “Wind Powers America Annual Report 2019” reveals that U.S. wind energy supports a record of 120,000 American jobs, 530 domestic factories and $1.6 billion a year in revenue for states and communities that host wind farms.
“U.S. wind power has grown significantly over the past decade, as consumers across the country increasingly turn to wind to provide affordable, reliable and clean electricity for their communities,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “Years of hard work culminated with wind power becoming America’s largest renewable energy provider in 2019, with a 50-state footprint of job creation and economic development. Wind’s near-record project pipeline indicates this growth will continue for years to come. While we are now working to mitigate the significant disruptions from COVID-19, we know that we will meet these challenges with strong industry momentum.”
Wind power capacity and generation end the decade at new heights
The U.S. wind industry experienced its third strongest year on record in 2019, as project developers invested nearly $14 billion in new wind projects totaling 9,137 MW. Total operating wind power capacity increased 9.6% to 105,591 MW, with nearly 60,000 wind turbines now operating across 41 states and two territories. Wind power represented 30 percent of utility-scale power plant installations over the past ten years.
Texas and Iowa led the country in wind power additions, with both states installing individual record amounts of wind power for a single year. South Dakota had the largest percentage growth in 2019, increasing its installed wind capacity by over 50% after installing 506 MW. In total, wind project developers delivered 55 projects in 19 states during 2019.
Wind now generates enough electricity to meet the demands of California (the world’s fourth-largest economy) and New Jersey combined. At the state level, wind provided more than 20% of the electricity generated in six states: Iowa, Kansas, Maine, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. In Iowa and Kansas, wind power is now the single largest source of electricity generation. Both states generated over 40% of their electricity from wind power last year.
In the Southwest Power Pool, the grid across most of the Plains, wind met nearly 28% of total electricity demand in 2019 and at points represented nearly 70% of power generation.
Finishing the decade with record growth, the wind industry is poised for continued expansion in the coming years. Another 44 GW of capacity is either under construction or in advanced stages of development. Those projects represent $62 billion in investment in the U.S. economy and enough additional power for 15 million American homes, once they’re built.
Alongside the growth in the land-based wind sector, many coastal states are looking to harness offshore. States up and down the East Coast are aiming to develop over 25 GW of offshore capacity by 2035, with 16 GW of new targets announced in 2019 alone. To help meet these targets, states and utilities selected 4,404 MW of offshore wind capacity through state-issued solicitations in 2019.
Wind energy powering rural economies
Wind turbine technicians continue to represent the second-fastest-growing career in the country, currently with approximately 120,000 people employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, veterans find wind jobs at a rate 61% higher than the average U.S. industry. Texas continues to lead the way for wind power jobs, with over 25,000 wind workers employed in the Lone Star State. Iowa, Illinois, Colorado and Indiana round out the top five states for wind energy employment.
The wind indsutry is creating new American manufacturing jobs and as of 2019, over 530 U.S. factories across 43 states build wind turbine components, employing over 26,000 Americans. Many of these jobs are in rural or small towns across the country.
Almost all wind U.S. wind projects are located in rural regions. In 2019 alone, wind projects paid over $900 million in state and local taxes. These tax payments help communities improve their school systems, fix roads and fund emergency services. Additionally, over $700 million in annual land-lease payments are provided to landowners. In total, wind projects are delivering $1.6 billion annually to state and local communities.
“Communities across the nation, especially rural communities, are experiencing first-hand the economic benefits that wind power delivers,” Kiernan said. “The wind industry’s rapid and continued growth has meant more family-sustaining jobs, more local manufacturing, more opportunities for veterans and more support for farming communities, all while providing reliable, low-cost, and zero-carbon electricity for millions of Americans.”
Strong demand from Utilities and Corporate Buyers Continues
Demand for wind energy set a record in 2019, as utilities and corporate buyers announced over 8,700 MW of new wind power purchase agreements (PPAs). Utilities signed up for over 5,000 MW of wind energy, while corporate buyers announced 3,460 MW of PPAs. Wind’s costs have fallen by 70% over the past decade and wind is an affordable source of new electricity throughout much of the country. Private industry customers accounted for 40% of the PPAs signed in 2019.
“Iconic U.S. companies are joining utilities in turning to wind energy to help drive their business goals and corporate social responsibility commitments forward,” Kiernan said. “Wind power provides long-term price stability, allowing companies to invest in their future, without worrying about the price they might have to pay for electricity. Many companies are also drawn to wind’s zero-carbon and zero-water attributes, which help them achieve their sustainability goals. And wind remains good for their bottom lines, since it’s the lowest-cost source of electricity in many parts of the country.”
Industry working hard to address challenge of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing unprecedented challenges to the U.S. healthcare system, disruptions to daily life across the country and deep uncertainty across the economy, including the U.S. wind industry.
According to AWEA analysis, COVID-19 is putting an estimated 25 GW of wind projects at risk, representing $35 billion in investment. This includes the potential loss of over $8 billion to rural communities in the form of state and local tax payments and land-lease payments to private landowners, as well as the loss of over 35,000 jobs, including wind turbine technicians, construction workers and factory workers.
Like the benefits of wind development, these losses will be felt most strongly in rural communities. The industry will continue working with Congress and other renewable energy leaders to address the challenges of COVID-19 to ensure projects have the flexibility to continue development.
“Affordable, reliable energy is not a luxury — it’s a necessity,” Kiernan said. “It provides the foundation and powers the infrastructure of our great country, ensuring its operations and functionality can continue without interruption on the road to recovery, and the wind energy workforce is working hard to keep the lights on during this trying time.”
News item from AWEA