U.S. wind turbine capacity to expand by 23 gigawatts in 2020

By Richard Bowers and Owen Comstock on 11/12/2020
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory

According to data collected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), project developers expect more than 23 gigawatts (GW) of wind turbine generating capacity to come online in the United States in 2020, far more than the previous record of 13.2 GW added in 2012. Only 5.0 GW of capacity has come online in the first eight months of this year, according to EIA’s Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory, but as is typical with wind turbine installations, most of the annual capacity additions come online in the final months of the year. Another 18.5 GW plan to come online in September through December, according to project timelines reported to EIA by power plant owners and developers.

The 5.0 GW of capacity added in the first eight months of 2020 is already more than the capacity added in the first months of any year except 2009. Developers expect to add another 18.5 GW in the final four months of 2020: 8.9 GW in September through November and 9.6 GW in December. December is typically the month with the most wind turbine capacity additions. In the previous 10 years, 41% of the annual wind capacity additions came online in December.

The impending phaseout of the full value of the U.S. production tax credit (PTC) at the end of 2020 is leading to more capacity additions than average this year, just as previous tax credit reductions led to significant wind capacity additions in 2012 and 2019. Wind turbine projects coming online through 2023 that began construction in 2019 qualify for lower values of the PTC.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory

Texas has the most wind turbine capacity among states (29.1 GW installed as of August 2020). Project developers in Texas expect to add another 4.0 GW by the end of the year, based on reported online dates. Project developers plan to add 2.7 GW in Oklahoma, increasing the state’s wind capacity from 8.2 GW to 10.9 GW.

EIA’s November 2020 Short-Term Energy Outlook shows wind’s share of U.S. electricity generation increasing from 7.4% in 2019 to 8.8% in 2020—more than any other renewable electricity generation source. EIA forecasts wind’s share to reach 10.3% in 2021. Because most of the wind capacity comes online late in the year, each year’s annual capacity additions tend to increase wind electricity generation in the following year.

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