Wind power is blowing strong across the US. Most recently rights to develop the Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area (WEA) were sold for $9.1 million. It’s the latest offshore wind farm lease sold and comes shortly after the US’s first offshore wind farm came online in Rhode Island last year. Meanwhile a regional grid in southwestern US has generated more than 52 percent of its energy from wind power without no problems showing the future for more is bright.
“This auction saw several bidders late into the auction’s rounds, demonstrating the industry’s intense interest in this area,” said Katharine Kollins, President of the Southeastern Wind Coalition. “Not only does this lease demonstrate the financial commitment from the industry to developing an offshore wind farm off North Carolina’s coast, it also insures North Carolina’s economy will benefit from the hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment the wind farm will ultimately generate.”
The rights for the 122,405 acre parcel were sold through a competitive bidding process held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The winner was Avangrid Renewables, which recently developed the state’s first utility-scale wind project. While the company won rights to develop a wind project, it must now find a utility or other customer from the power such a project could produce.
“The same winds that once lifted the first powered flight above North Carolina’s Outer Banks could soon power thousands if not millions of American homes,” said Nancy Sopko, the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA’s) director of Offshore Wind and Federal Legislative Affairs. “Millions of dollars in private investment drawn to this new ocean energy resource will help North Carolina’s economy take flight, creating new demand for skilled jobs, factories and US flagged vessels.”
With more than 82 gigawatts (GWs) of wind power installed across the US onshore wind farms are currently the US’s largest source of renewable energy—outside of giant hydropower plants. But solar power is quickly catching up. For instance, the Department of Energy reported earlier this year that of the 16.4 GWs of utility-scale wind and solar power added to the US’ electric grid in 2016—out of 27 total GWs—new wind was 8.7 GWs while new solar power was 7.7 GWs of that total. However, the US also installed 3.4 GWs of rooftop solar last year—making the total amount of solar installed last year at least 11.1 GWs.
Still wind is leading and the utilities are integrating it better than expected. Earlier this year the Southwest Power Pool saw reach 52.1 percent or its generating capacity on Feb. 12. “Ten years ago, we thought hitting even a 25 percent wind-penetration level would be extremely challenging, and any more than that would pose serious threats to reliability,” SPP Vice President of Operations Bruce Rew said. “Now we have the ability to reliably manage greater than 50 percent wind penetration. It’s not even our ceiling.”
That and projects like the completion of the first offshore wind farm, Deepwater Wind’s five-turbine, 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island are helping reassure utilities and the public that renewables are viable.
These types of projects are also helping reduce the cost of electricity for US consumers. A report from Lazard earlier this year showed that utility-scale wind (as low as $32 per megawatt hour) and solar power (as low as $46 per MWh) were coming in at lower prices than even natural gas generation (as low as $48 per MWh).Tweet