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DOE: US wind power capacity grew 8% in 2014 to ~66 GW, 2nd in world; meets 4.9% of end use demand; lowest prices to date

According to the 2014 Wind Technologies Market Report released today by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and its Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, total installed wind power capacity in the United States grew at a rate of 8% in 2014 and now stands at nearly 66 gigawatts (GW)—ranking second in the world (to China) and meeting 4.9% of end-use electricity demand in an average year.

Wind power represented 24% of U.S. electric-generating capacity additions in 2014. Since 2007, wind power has represented 33% of all US capacity additions. With utility-scale wind energy projects installed in 39 States and Puerto Rico, the US wind sector supports more than 73,000 jobs, representing a 30% job market increase over 2013.

Additionally, 2014 ushered in some of the lowest wind energy prices ever, falling to 2.35 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), which accounts for a 66% decline since 2009, when prices topped out at nearly 7 cents per kWh.

Wind turbines originally designed for lower wind speed sites have rapidly gained market share. With growth in average swept rotor area outpacing growth in average nameplate capacity, there has been a decline in the average “specific power” (in W/m2) over time, from 394 W/m2 among projects installed in 1998–1999 to 249 W/m2 among projects installed in 2014.

Increasing use of turbines with low specific power. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge.

Along with growing rotor diameters, turbine nameplate capacity and hub height have also increased significantly over the long term. With capacity factors now averaging 33%, up from 30% in 2000, wind turbines are converting a higher amount of wind into wind energy at a lower price. The average nameplate capacity of newly installed wind turbines in the United States in 2014 was 1.9 MW, up 172% since 1998–1999.

Trends in turbine rotor diameter. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge.

The average hub height of newly installed wind turbines in 2014 was 82.7 meters (m), up 48% since 1998–1999, while the average rotor diameter was 99.4 m, up 108% since 1998–1999. Rotor scaling has been especially significant in recent years, and more so than increases in nameplate capacity and hub heights, both of which have seen a stabilization of the long-term trend in recent years. In 2008, no turbines employed rotors that were 100 m in diameter or larger; by 2014, that percentage was 80%.



'Wind power represented 24% of U.S. electric-generating capacity additions in 2014. Since 2007, wind power has represented 33% of all US capacity additions.'

Presumably in renewables industry 'funny money' nameplate capacity, with output figures being a third that,


8% and 11% would not sound nearly as impressive as 24% and 33%.


USA imported 3X as much clean hydro from Canada or 69.6 megawatt hours in 2014 at under $0.06/kWh.

Account Deleted

Only Nuclear Plants come close to 100% Capacity Factor at 92% in 2014 (these are baseload plants). Coal Plants is around 61% and Natural Gas Combined Cycle 48% in 2014. Combustion Turbines are less than 5% (source:


The innovation is the larger turbines for lower wind speeds.
This means they can have wind in a lot more places.
Wind doesn't scale down well, it has to be big so you don't have rooftop wind in the way you can have rooftop solar.
But at 2.35c / KwH wholesale, it is very cheap, and shouldn't need subsidies at all.
It doesn't solve the intermittancy problem, but if it is that cheap, you can afford to keep all the thermal plant and reduce your CO2 emissions with wind overlays.
The same may happen with grid scale solar, it will become very cheap and this will allow the dispatchable fossil plant to be paid for.
The economics of the whole thing will be turned on its head with lots of cheap renewables some of the time and expensive dispatchables the rest of the time.
The best thing the fossil people can do is to buy into as much renewable as possible so they are on both sides of the fence. (This would seem to be the lesson from Germany).

[Batteries don't really solve the intermittancy problem on a medium to large scale. It is reasonable to put in "overnight" batteries for solar plant (like Tesla), but if you get a run of dull days, or winter, you are back to the fossil dispatchables, but they are even more expensive as they are used even less on an annual basis]

Nuclear power would do as well, glad to see the Japanese getting their reactors back on line.


@Gryf, the thermals may have < 90% capacity factor, but at least they don'y all go off at the same time.
At night ALL PV panels go down. IN northern latitudes in winter, you get very little power.
The same happens for wind when you get a still time or a winter inversion.
In Ireland, there was a 12 consecutive day period in July 2013 when the wind did not get above 10% across the whole country (North and south). You can't store across a 12 day gap, you have to keep the dispatchables in place to get through times like this.



Single cycle gas turbines are mainly used to provide peaking power and make up for the intermittency of renewables, hence the low capacity factor.

Account Deleted

I worked for Southern Company for over 7 years, quite familiar with Load Dispatch and other Load Management functions.



Since you have that history, you should surely then have realised that the remarkably low figure you gave needed a bit of explanation, not just plonking down.

Readers who were not familiar with the industry in any way would have found it completely confusing.

Do try to communicate.

It sounds as though you are probably an engineer! ;-)

Account Deleted

Apologies for the confusion. Will provide more detail next time and I worked in the Engineering Systems area at Southern Company Services.


No matter how hard you non technologists try adapting limited 16th and 18th century technology, it will not suffice.

Propaganda listing tiny amounts of installed nameplate capacity no longer fools anyone. Nor are the costs reasonable. Insignificant capacity factors cannot be overcome nor the harsh operational conditions that you face. Load bearings are subject to overuse and airfoils have inherent inherent fatigue factors that limit the lifetime of most windmills to tiny lifetimes. Strength of materials limit airfoil sizes.

Solar plants consume vast amounts of land and kill much flora and fauna, a subject carefully masked to date, that will eventually prohibit their construction if other limitations do not.


Overall US capacity is ~1 TW and annual generation is ~4000 TWh. Since there is ~ 8000 hrs in a year, the overall average capacity factor (if I'm using that term correctly) is ~50%. There must be a lot of idle generating capacity out there to bring the average down to 50%. So when I see that solar's is ~25%, and wind ~30%, it's not actually as bad as it seems.



Although the figures for renewables and other sources sound as though they are comparable, they are not really.

That is because wind and solar are not despatchable, ie they fun at 20% (not 25%) and 30% because that is when the sun shines and the wind blows, and if you need power at other times they can't be ramped up and down.

Nuclear goes pretty much flat out all the time, providing baseload, ie what you are going to need all the time.

That leaves fossil fuels and hydro, and they are all used to one extent or another to provide peak load.

The energy use from air conditioning on a hot summer's day is a heck of a lot higher than normally, and the same goes on a cold one in winter.

So sources you can turn up and down provide that extra power.

So coal plants, and especially gas plants, have low capacity factors not because they can't run more of the time and provide more power, but because they are not needed.

And more renewables mean lower capacity factors in fossil fuels, as they still have to be ready to fill in when it is not sunny or windy.

So low capacity in solar and wind is because that is the best they can do.

Low capacity in fossil fuel plants is because we choose not to switch them on much of the time.

That means the plant is amortised over less hours.

So renewables increase the costs of fossil fuel for back up.


@Davemart, nicely put.
A question I would pose is how much renewables you can add to the grid before the costs start to get out of hand, and how you can react to it.

Solar has got really cheap and wind is reducing, but not at the same rate so the capital cost of adding renewables to the grid has certainly reduced.

It strikes me that the problem is one of ownership - if one group can own both fossil and renewables, they can balance the cost themselves. If one group owns renewables and the other owns dispatchables, then you need a complicated pricing mechanism to keep it fair.
This favours national electricity providers where the one entity owns everything, but that has problems (like monopoly ownership of the power generation resources).
Hard to implement that.
Nontheless, the biggest problem i can see is the economics -how do you run a grid with a lot of variable, non-dispatchable power on it.


A better pair is Wind/Solar + variable output Hydro.

Where hydro plants are equipped with very large water réservoirs, it is easy to use REs (Wind/Solar) for prime loads, to use up to 100% of REs output, and use Hydro to fill in for the rest on an as required basis.

The water réservoirs become your (low or no cost) energy storage medium. Hydro power plants can be over equipped to meet short term peak loads and/or more REs can be added to do it.

We are using a Wind/Hydro mix to produce 100% of the local e-energy with a single integrated local network and to export about 50 terrawatt hours/year to USA. Total mixed production could be 2X to 3X when the need increases, maily to Eastern US States and to meet future EVs requirements.

New high voltage (DC) transmission lines to NYC will probably be burried in the Champlain Lake and the Hudson River at an extra cost of about $0.01/kWh. Alternate routes would cost as much.


Suppliers and consumers would best be served upon market approach wherein trading of value occurs. A smart grid or meter? This way the consumer can delay or substitute expensive energy consumption, such decisions as to utilize natural gas, roof top solar, low peak, high peak and to balance this upon need, cost, etc. Automation upon computer control with inputs of cost and consumer desire would be important. Maybe a smart electric rate meter analogues to thermostat wherein the consumer dials in his peak cost purchase limit. On the supply side, a hydro electric operator would maximize return of power generation per the natural ability to store energy. Nuclear would get a bigger market for off peak lower cost power. Wealthy utility patrons probably have little concern of waste or cost of expensive power. Good for them. They can pay for expensive back up power. The cost of power would fluctuate more per demand and supply. Back up and peak power demand would carry an expensive price tag per the real cost of such services. Wind energy production may carry a low cost price since the energy source would be for the taking when it occurs. Your house hold controller may eliminate all power during peak load or power just the lights and entertainment. A consumer may decide to switch to gas range for cooking or utilize ice maker thermal storage and avoid peak load A.C. cooling. The controller may shut down the refrigerator for a few hours, stop the clothes washing machines or water heater. This type of system could handle the complexities of such decision making requirements common upon supply and demand aka open market. The reporting to both consumer and producer would be more accurate analysis of what is truly needed.


@Harvey, absolutely, Hydro is very valuable and should be used for load shaping or filling in the gaps left behind by renewables.
@Emily, also a good idea, variable pricing for consumers based on the wholesale cost of electricity.
The only problem I can see is the complexity of the approach, especially if you have a lot of wind on the grid.
If you have a surplus of electricity at night, it is easy for people to plan their usage to match this. Thus, you might start your dishwasher or clothes washer at night, or top up your hot water supply.
However, this becomes more complex with wind - you can certainly predict 1 or 2 days out, but the peak wind times will vary at random so it is hard to set out a simple plan to use this.
You would need an internet connected controller which would decide when to wash dishes so they would be ready by 7am the next morning, etc. The same could be done for heating water, making ice, charging BEVs etc.
It is all doable, but you have to replace your appliances to use this system and you need a standard to operate it by and you need a local electricity supplier who will run such a system.
And it has to be secure.


Sorry to say there has been much cooking of the books over the years re the price of windpower. $0.235/kWh does not include costs of standby power from fossil fuel to deal with wind shortages, which are embedded in blended electric rates. Wind surpluses are often dumped at artificially low prices, which has been the case in Ontario vis a vis the US, which incurred tens of millions of dollars in losses (see Globe and Daily Mail). I have yet to see a parameters-restricted study of the optimal cost of windpower on a given, sufficiently large grid network with a proportion of turbine capacity to support wind loss without appreciable surplus energy to make a noticeable monetary loss. Statistically, that would be about 8% of fossil fuel use over the course of a year, which would have to include the costs of wear and tear on startups and winddowns of turbines and generators.

I do not include nuclear for wind backup because altering output is a maintenance nightmare. This design consideration is what is killing the EPR. The way out then is to run nuclear full capacity on a very big grid and wheel 30% wind or other renewable on it. This is what ORNL specifies for the Western Grid. But apparently there is no scheme like it in operation.

The levelized cost of wind is actually about $0.16/kWh while nuclear and gas are about one quarter that. Wind has a capacity factor of about 30%, nuclear 90%, with service and off-lining data on wind turbines unavailable to me. That is an important point -- nuclear does not overload and really cannot because of the negative void coefficient effect in overheated fuel. But windblades can and will break in excessive gusts and sleet. And the lifetime of a wind turbine? We shall see, but it's unlikely to be the 55 years that Gen III reactors will probably enjoy.



Your data is extremely out in the weeds incorrect.

The largest power market in the work is PJM

They pay extra for capacity availability. They expect capacity payments to run $185 per MW-day.

So even if a nameplate watt of wind that only generated at 30% capacity factor was forced to pay for the full and entire cost of a capacity payment to another generator for an ENTIRE watt (a ludicrous strawman scenario) it would cost them 2.6 cents per kilowatt-hour in capacity charges.

So even in that extreme straw-man scenario it still means wind is competitive if PPAs are coming in at 2.35 cents per kilowatt hour (NOT $0.235/kWh like you posted - you're off by 10x), even with a ludicrous strawman payment of 2.6 cents per kilowatt-hour for capacity backup.

Levelized cost of wind being about $0.16/kWh is not remotely correct, nor is nuclear at "about one quarter that". The last nuclear PPA price was Austin Energy's bid for a pair of AP1000s at 13.2 cents per kilowatt-hour. Wind at 2.35 cents even in strawman scenarios crushes that.

Lifetime of power generating assets out to 55 years becomes increasingly irrelevant due to the nature of net present values.


Wind looks good? Are my estimates close?

Turbine cost $1 million per mw, installed $1.3

One 500 mw nuclear plant $5 billion or
800 wind turbines $2.0 billion

The nuclear power plant would have a 50 yr lifespan, but the wind turbines could be overhauled for indefinite life span. Backup power investment and maintenance costs as well as the fuel for backup power a negative for wind energy as well as expensive grid connections. Still it would appear to me wind would be attractive power generation system. Good not to go wild on the energy as more cost effective to stabilize the industry for maximum cost effectiveness, learning curve, less debt, etc. Pre-stressed concrete towers may become a better cost effective choice. Also, obsolescence a threat to wind turbine or other power plants as well. Example fusion power, SMR, fuel cell, hydrogen, home CHP, or energy storage systems.


Here's another thing to consider. Wind energy has a ripple effect on the United States economy: the Department of Energy’s findings report that the wind energy industry supports 73,000 jobs in development, siting, manufacturing, transportation and other industries, growth of 22,500 jobs from 2013 to 2014. The industry also supports a growing network of domestic small wind turbine manufacturers, which saw a strong year of exports in 2014 and accounted for nearly 80 percent of total wind energy sales worldwide.

Can we say the same about any of those huge, single site, power plants - be they nuclear or fossil? What is the jobs per MW count for those?


Yes, good points. However, the factor was 50% before wind or solar was a significant number. Germany has managed to integrate high percentages of wind power, but OK, their country is smaller. I'd argue that solar tracks air conditioning use, so that relieves some of the intermittent issues of solar.

I have not run the numbers on how much storage is needed to avoid adding gas fired turbines to the mix, but smart metering and smart appliances may be able to help avoid shortages during max hours.

I would think the biggest concern would be figuring out the probability curve of solar/wind minimum output vs duration - what do you have to prepare for based upon your renewable mix.


Germany has managed to integrate high percentages of wind power, but OK, their country is smaller.

Actually, being a smaller country should be a hindrance to high percentages of wind power. The wind is always blowing - somewhere, so if you can case your net wide enough you can cancel out the variance in output.


I doubt if wind will diminish traditional power generation fleet as the seasonal variation is just to great as well as natural fluctuation such what California is now experiencing with low wind power. Nor can power storage. So, were stuck with maintaining and keeping our investment dollars within back up power. Per this impediment, wind power is stuck within the market to compete with offsetting fuel cost of current fleet of power plants, a very low paying market, indeed. Now, if those wind turbines could produce hydrogen and that fuel could be stored in mass qualities within our obsolete oil well infrastructure like how natural gas is stored, well that would be a game changer.

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