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Wind Energy in the United States

2020 wind energy numbers

Wind power capacity in the United States grew at a record pace in 2020 with the addition of 16.8 GW. Wind continues to be the top source of renewable energy production in the United States. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) states that wind accounted for 9.2% of U.S. electric sales or 8.3% of U.S. generation in 2020.

The United States had 121,985 MW of operating wind power capacity, with 67,814 wind turbines operating across 42 states and two U.S. territories at the end of 2020. Wind energy companies employed 116,817 workers in 2020—a 1.8% increase from 2019. Project developers and power purchasers reported power purchase agreement activity totaling 5,444 MW in 2020.

To learn more about wind energy in the United States, please review the U.S. chapter in the IEA Wind TCP 2020 Annual Report.

Photo by Dennis Schroeder, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

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National Electricity Demand

In 2020, wind reached 9.2% of U.S. electricity generation
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Gigawatt

2020 broke annual wind capacity installation records with 16.8 GW new capacity
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Growth Rate

Wind technician still ranked as the nation’s fastest-growing job, with a 61% growth rate expected.

Targets and Policy

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Wind Energy Technologies Office has established research goals to reduce the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) by 2030, as follows:

  1. Fixed-bottom offshore wind: 40% to 50% LCOE reduction—from 0.086 USD (0.07 EUR) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2020 to 0.07 USD (0.057 EUR) per kWh in 2025 and 0.05 USD (0.04 EUR) per kWh in 2030.
  2. Floating offshore wind: 40% to 50% LCOE reduction—from 0.135 USD (0.11 EUR) per kWh in 2020 to 0.095 USD (0.077 EUR) per kWh in 2025 and 0.07 USD (0.057 EUR) per kWh in 2030.
  3. Land-based wind: 40% to 45% LCOE reduction—from 0.037 USD (0.03 EUR) per kWh in 2020 to 0.032 USD (0.026 EUR) per kWh in 2025 and 0.023 USD (0.018 EUR) per kWh in 2030.
  4. Distributed wind: 50% LCOE reduction for a reference 100-kilowatt wind turbine—from 0.105 USD (0.085 EUR) per kWh in 2020 to 0.072 USD (0.058 EUR) per kWh in 2025 and 0.05 USD (0.04 EUR) per kWh in 2030.

Progress & Operational Details

As a result of significant design innovation in wind turbine scaling—such as larger rotors and taller towers to boost energy capture and capacity factor—wind’s per-megawatt costs declined in 2020. The average hub height of U.S. utility-scale turbines installed in 2020 was 90 meters (m), nearly the same as in 2019. However, rotors increased in size from an average 2019 rotor diameter of 121.2 m to 124.5 m, increasing the average total turbine height to more than 150 m. Meanwhile, the rated capacity of wind turbines also continued scaling up—from 2.6 MW in 2019 to 2.8 MW in 2020.

U.S. offshore wind energy projects announced in 2020 included Vineyard Wind, Ørsted’s Skipjack Wind Farm (using 13-MW General Electric [GE] Haliade-X turbines), and Dominion Energy’s Virginia Beach project (using SG 14-222 DD turbines).

The United States had more than 87,000 wind turbines in distributed wind applications across 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam. In 2020, the United States added 14.7 MW of distributed wind capacity, roughly a 41 million USD (33.53 million EUR) investment serving residential, industrial, agricultural, commercial, government, and utility customers. Total distributed wind capacity in the United States installed from 2003 to 2020 was just over 1 GW.

Partial wind power plant repowering projects completed in 2020 totaled 2,899 MW, led by GE Renewable Energy repowering 2,086 MW. Vestas repowered 774 MW and Siemens Gamesa repowered 39 MW.

National RDD Priorities and Budget

DOE funds research to reduce the cost of wind energy, enable the integration of substantial amounts of wind energy into the national energy system, and create siting solutions to reduce environmental impacts. In 2020, the federal research budget for wind energy research and development was 104 million USD (85.07 EUR)—an increase of 12 million USD (9.816 million EUR) over 2019.

DOE organized its 2020 wind energy research priorities into several categories:

Offshore wind: DOE support included 21 million USD (17.17 million EUR) for three projects on offshore wind technology demonstration and resource characterization. The National Offshore Wind R&D Consortium, a public-private partnership supported by DOE and focused on R&D activities to reduce offshore wind LCOE, selected 12 new research projects, bringing the consortium’s total to 20 awards and 17.3 million USD (14.15 million EUR) invested.

Land-based wind: DOE funded the Big Adaptive Rotor project to enable the next generation of land-based wind turbines with rotors that measure over 200 m in diameter. DOE awarded GE Renewables 5 million USD (4.09 million EUR) to design and demonstrate a 140-m wind turbine with a 10-m, 3D-printed concrete pedestal. DOE and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey and the American Clean Power Association, made significant improvements to the U.S. Wind Turbine Database, which contains data from nearly 68,000 wind turbines.

Distributed wind: DOE’s Tools Assessing Performance project aims to improve wind resource characterization, thereby reducing the uncertainty of project performance and financing costs, increasing consumer confidence, and lowering the levelized cost of distributed wind energy. The Microgrids, Infrastructure Resilience, and Advanced Controls Launchpad (MIRACL) project leverages research capabilities across four national laboratories and enables research, development, and industry validation of distributed energy resource design and planning tools, components, and hybrid energy systems.

Systems integration: DOE’s goal is to enable cost-effective, cybersecure, reliable, and resilient operation of the U.S. energy grid with increasing levels of wind. Projects include a wind cybersecurity road map and MIRACL.

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