Wind energy continues to have strong growth, solid performance and attractive prices in the USA, according to a report published by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and prepared by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). With levelized costs of just over $30 per megawatt-hour (MWh) for new-build projects, the cost of wind far outweighs the grid, health and climate benefits.
“Wind power prices – particularly in the central United States and supported by federal tax incentives – remain low even with ongoing supply chain pressures, with utilities and corporate buyers choosing wind as a cost-effective option low,” said Ryan Wiser, a senior scientist. in Berkeley Lab’s Energy Technologies Area. “Considering the health and climate benefits of wind energy makes the economy even better,” he added.
Key findings from DOE’s “Annual Land-Based Wind Market Report” include the following:
• Wind accounts for a growing share of the electricity supply. US wind power capacity grew at a strong pace in 2021, with 13.4 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity added representing an investment of $20 billion and 32% of all US capacity additions. Wind energy production increased to more than 9% of the entire country’s electricity supply. At least 247 GW of wind is seeking access to the transmission system; 77 GW of this capacity is offshore wind and 19 GW are hybrid plants that combine wind with energy storage or solar.
• Wind project performance has increased over the decades. The average capacity factor (a measure of project performance) among recently completed projects was nearly 40%, significantly higher than previously built projects. The highest capacity factors are seen inland.
• Turbines keep getting bigger. The plant’s improved performance is driven by larger turbines mounted on taller towers and with longer blades. In 2011, no turbines used blades 115 meters in diameter or larger, but in 2021, 89% of newly installed turbines had such rotors. The proposed designs show that the total height of the turbine will continue to increase.
• Herew The price of wind turbines has reduced installed project costs over the past decade. Wind turbine prices averaged $800 to $950/kilowatt (kW) in 2021, up 5% to 10% from last year but significantly lower than in 2010. The average installed cost of wind projects in 2021 was $1,500/kW, up more than 40% from the peak in 2010, though steady in recent years. The lowest costs were found in Texas.
• Wind energy prices have increased but remain low, around $20/MWh in the country’s inland “wind belt”. After reaching $75/MWh for power purchase agreements executed in 2009, the national average wind price has fallen – although supply chain pressures have resulted in price increases in recent years. In the inland “wind belt” of the country, the final price is around $20/MWh. In the West and East, prices tend to average over $30/MWh. These prices, which are possible in part because of federal tax support, fall below projected future gas production fuel costs.
• Wind prices are often attractive compared to the market value of the wind grid system. The value of wind energy sold in wholesale energy markets is affected by the location of wind farms, their hourly production profiles and how these characteristics relate to real-time electricity prices and capacity markets. The market value of wind increased in 2021 and ranged regionally from under $20/MWh to over $40/MWh, a range roughly in line with recent wind power prices.
• The average levelized cost of wind power was $32/MWh for plants built in 2021. Levelized costs vary by time and geography, but the national average stood at $32/MWh in 2021 – significantly down historically, though consistent with the previous three years. (The cost estimates do not account for the effect of federal wind tax incentives.)
• The health and climate benefits of wind in 2021 were greater than the value of its grid system, and the combination of the three far exceeds the current levelized cost of wind. Wind generation reduces energy sector emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. These reductions, in turn, provide public health and climate benefits that vary regionally, but collectively are economically valued at an average of over $90/MWh-year for plants built in 2021.
Berkeley Lab’s contributions to this report were funded by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Wind Energy Technologies.
The full report Land-Based Wind Market: 2022 Edition, a presentation deck summarizing the report, several interactive data visualizations and an Excel workbook containing the data presented in the report can be downloaded from windreport.lbl. gov. Companion reports on offshore wind and distributed wind are also available from the Department of Energy.
The US Department of Energy’s announcement of this study is available at energy.gov/windreport.
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Founded in 1931 on the belief that the greatest scientific challenges are best tackled by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been recognized with 14 Nobel Prizes. Today, Berkeley Lab researchers develop sustainable energy and environmental solutions, create useful new materials, advance the frontiers of computing, and probe the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists from around the world rely on the Laboratory’s equipment for their discovery science. Berkeley Lab is a multi-program national laboratory managed by the University of California for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
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