EIA: Small wind turbines nearing 1 GW capacity in U.S.

Distributed wind power, featuring turbines of no more than 1 MW, reached a cumulative capacity of almost 1 GW (906 MW) in the United States in 2014, according to a newly issued report by the Energy Information Administration.

According to the 2014 Distributed Wind Market Report, the U.S. distributed wind market reflected nearly 74,000 small wind turbines deployed across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Distributed generation is used at or near where it is generated, as opposed to wind power from wholesale generation, where power is sent to consumers via transmission lines and substations.

In total, 63.6 MW of new distributed wind capacity was added in 2014, representing nearly 1,700 units and $170 million in investment across 24 states.

In 2014, America’s distributed wind energy industry supported a growing domestic industrial base as exports from U.S.-based small wind turbine manufacturers accounted for nearly 80 percent of domestic-based manufacturers’ sales.

The top five U.S. small wind turbine manufacturers and suppliers based on 2014 sales in terms of capacity (MWs of domestic sales and exports) were Northern Power Systems of Vermont; Bergey WindPower of Oklahoma; PowerWorks of California; Primus Wind Power of Colorado; and, Ventera Wind of Minnesota.

In 2014, U.S.-based small wind turbine manufacturers continued to favor U.S. supply chain vendors for most of their wind turbine components. Self-reported domestic content levels ranged from 60 percent to 100 percent.

New Mexico, Texas, and California were the top states in 2014 in terms of adding distributed wind capacity. With two large projects totaling 34.8 MW installed in 2014, New Mexico accounted for nearly 55 percent of the total U.S. annual capacity.

Capacity-weighted average installed costs of newly manufactured small wind turbines sold in the United States in 2013 and 2014 vary by turbine size.

For turbines less than 2.5 kW, the average cost was $8,200/kW, for turbines 2.5 to 10 kW, the average cost was $7,200/kW, and for turbines 11 to 100 kW, the average cost was $6,000/kW. The overall capacity-weighted average installed cost of 2.8 MW of all newly manufactured small wind turbines sold domestically in 2014 was $6,230/kW, down from $6,940/kW in 2013 based on 5 MW of sales.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy, helped oversee the report for EIA and DOE. Chief authors of the report were Alice C. Orrell and Nikolas F. Foster.

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Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 22 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants.

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