Project Development, Utility Scale, Wind Power

US Wind Market is Weaker Than in 2008

For the fourth consecutive year, the U.S. was home to the fastest-growing wind power market in the world in 2008, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Energy and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). Specifically, U.S. wind power capacity additions increased by 60 percent in 2008, representing a US $16 billion investment in new wind projects.

The 2008 edition of the Wind Technologies Market Report provides a comprehensive overview of developments in the rapidly evolving U.S. wind power market.

According to the report, the U.S. is the fastest-growing wind market worldwide. The U.S. has led the world in new wind capacity for four straight years, and overtook Germany to take the lead in cumulative wind capacity installations.

Market growth is spurring manufacturing investments in the U.S. Several major foreign wind turbine manufacturers either opened or announced new U.S. wind turbine manufacturing plants in 2008. Likewise, new and existing U.S.-based manufacturers either initiated or scaled-up production. The number of utility-scale wind turbine manufacturers assembling turbines in the U.S. increased from just one in 2004 (GE) to five in 2008 (GE, Gamesa, Clipper, Acciona, CTC/DeWind).

LBNL found that wind turbine prices and installed project costs continued to increase into 2008. Near the end of 2008 and into 2009, however, turbine prices have weakened in response to reduced demand for wind due to the financial crisis.

Wind project performance has improved over time, but has leveled off in recent years. The longer-term improvement in project performance has been driven in part by taller towers and larger rotors, enhanced project siting, and technological advancements.

Wind remained economically competitive in 2008. Despite rising project costs, in recent years wind has consistently been priced at or below the price of conventional electricity, as reflected in wholesale power prices. With wholesale prices plummeting in recent months, however, the economic position of wind in the near-term has become more challenging.

Expectations are for a slower year in 2009, in large part due to the global recession. Projections among industry prognosticators range from 4,400 MW to 6,800 MW of wind likely to be installed in the U.S. in 2009. After a slower 2009, most predictions show market resurgence in 2010 and continuing for the immediate future.

Click here to download the report.