A recent U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) report, in collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley Lab, highlights the robust growth of wind energy in the United States. Wind projects are thriving with costs just above $30 per megawatt-hour (MWh) for new builds. This cost-efficient pricing, bolstered by federal tax incentives, is substantially lower than grid-related expenses and health impacts.
Ryan Wiser from Berkeley Lab notes that despite ongoing supply chain challenges, wind energy prices remain attractive, especially in the central U.S. This economical option is favored by utilities and corporate buyers alike, and the positive environmental and health impacts amplify its economic appeal.
Wind energy's ascendancy is evident in the 2021 numbers: 13.4 GW of new wind power capacity was added, representing 32% of the total U.S. capacity growth. Wind energy now accounts for over 9% of the nation's electricity supply. Moreover, with 247 GW of wind projects seeking transmission access, including offshore and hybrid installations, the industry's trajectory remains promising.
Notable advancements are seen in wind project performance, with recent projects achieving an average capacity factor of nearly 40%, showcasing progress over earlier installations. Larger turbines, taller towers, and longer blades contribute to enhanced plant performance. This trend is set to continue as turbine heights are projected to rise further.
Wind turbine pricing has steadily decreased, with average costs ranging from $800 to $950 per kW in 2021. This reflects a 5% to 10% increase from the previous year but remains considerably lower than prices a decade ago. The overall cost of wind projects has also significantly dropped, down more than 40% from its peak in 2010.
Despite slight increases, wind energy prices remain competitive, particularly in the U.S. "wind belt" region, where costs hover around $20 per MWh. This affordability, aided by federal tax support, positions wind energy favorably against future gas-fired generation costs.
Considering wind energy's market value within the grid system, its worth has increased, with values ranging from under $20 to over $40 per MWh in various regions. This mirrors recent wind energy prices, underscoring its advantageous position.
Summing up 2021, the average levelized cost of wind energy settled at $32 per MWh, demonstrating a substantial reduction over time. Additionally, the health and environmental benefits exceeded grid-system value, amounting to over $90 per MWh of wind energy generated by plants established in 2021.