Record 2020 wind installations represented 42% of new power

Sky wind turbine

The U.S. installed a record amount of wind-generating capacity last year, adding nearly 17,000 megawatts of power on land, according to an Energy Department report being released Monday. 

Wind energy’s share of total utility-scale generating capacity in the U.S. was only 11 per cent in 2020, behind natural gas at 43 per cent and nuclear and coal which both represented about 20 per cent. 

But wind is gaining: It accounted for 42 per cent of all new capacity in 2020, which represented $24.6 billion in new wind power projects, according to the Energy Department study, which was conducted by the department’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Solar was second, accounting for 38 per cent of new capacity, followed by natural gas at about 20 per cent. Overall, renewable energy comprised 80 per cent of new capacity added last year. Utility scale measures energy that can be fed into a power grid. 

“These reports contain such terrific news: the U.S. installed a record-breaking amount of land-based wind energy last year,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. “They underscore both the progress made and the capacity for much more affordable wind power to come.”

President Joe Biden’s administration has laid out ambitious plans to increase renewable-energy use, and vowed to achieve 100 per cent clean energy by 2035 to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. 

Part of those plans is a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. The Interior Department announced Monday it was proceeding with an environmental review of a proposed 122-turbine project in federal waters off the coast of Montauk, New York, a key bureaucratic hurdle for the project.

“The Interior Department is committed to confronting climate change, creating thousands of good-paying jobs, and paving the way for the nation’s transition to a cleaner energy future,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said. “Offshore wind is a critical component of that ambitious agenda.”

The Land-Based Wind Market Report also found that wind energy provided more than 10 per cent of total in-state electricity generation in 16 states, including 57 per cent of Iowa’s and more than 30 per cent in Kansas, Okla., and North and South Dakota.

New utility-scale, land-based wind turbines were installed in 25 states in 2020, including Texas which installed the most capacity, with 4,137 megawatts, the report said.

According to the Energy Department, wind industry employment expanded by 1.8 per cent in 2020, making it one of the few areas that saw job growth amid declines because of the coronavirus pandemic.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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