Major Growth in Co-op Wind Energy

by / Thursday, 24 August 2017 / Published in News

By Steven Johnson, Staff Writer (NRECA)

The U.S. Energy Department is reporting a growth spurt in wind energy, including half of planned renewable generation additions at electric cooperatives.

In a series of reports on wind energy, DOE said that wind generators added more than 8,200 megawatts of capacity in 2016, representing about 27 percent of all energy capacity additions. Utility-scale wind now produces about 82 gigawatts of power.

“The wind industry continues to install significant amounts of new capacity, and supplied about 6 percent of total U.S. electricity in 2016,” said Daniel Simmons, acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. “As our reports explain, a combination of federal subsidies, state mandates, and technological advancements continue to help drive new wind capacity additions.”

The co-op sector also is contributing to upturn in wind energy, according to NRECA data.

Electric co-ops added 859 MW of wind energy in 2016, either through direct ownership or power purchase agreements.

They are on track to add another 746 MW in 2017, including planned wind installations, with plans for another 275 MW in 2019 and 50 MW in 2020. That would bring co-op wind capacity to about 7,465 MW, a 62 percent increase since 2013.

Some 561 co-ops in 37 states include wind energy in their portfolio. Wind is the second most utilized renewable resource for co-ops, behind only hydroelectric power. On a national basis, wind has eclipsed hydro at specific times in the last year, according to DOE.

Texas remains the leader in wind production at 20,320 MW. However, wind capacity in Iowa supplied more than 36 percent of the state’s power, with South Dakota at 30 percent, DOE said.

Nine states get at least 15 percent of their end-use electricity from wind.

The DOE report said the wind boom might soften after 2020, with the phase-out of the federal production tax credit.

“Expectations for continued low natural gas prices, modest electricity demand growth, and lower near-term demand from state [renewable standard] policies also put a damper on growth expectations,” it said.