Utility-Scale Wind Energy
With technological advances and reduced production prices, wind energy is a serious and important component of utility generation. Not only do wind projects provide a clean source of electricity, but they also help keep electric rates low and provide a hedge against fossil fuel price volatility. Wind energy costs have declined over the past few years as wind turbine technology has matured (for example, with taller towers and improved turbine efficiencies).
Wind energy is now one of the most cost-effective sources of new electricity generation, competing with new installations of other energy sources in wind-rich regions. During 2013, U.S. utilities signed at least 60 power purchase agreements totaling nearly 8,000 megawatts across 18 states. Utilities can lock in wind energy prices for 20 to 30 years because the fuel is free. That’s one reason wind power has added 31% of all new generating capacity to the U.S. grid over the past 5 years. In August 2012, American wind power reached an historic milestone: 50 gigawatts of electric generating capacity. Just 5 months later, the United States hit the 60-gigawatt milestone, which is enough electricity to power 15 million homes each year. As of September 2014, the current installed capacity of wind energy in the United States is approximately 62 gigawatts.
Electric utilities have a unique role in bringing wind power to their retail customers. Utilities are the connection to the end-use customers, who expect their electricity providers to use more clean energy to power their homes, schools, businesses, and institutions. Wind power is the largest and most readily deployable form of new clean energy available. Utilities play a critical role in delivering this energy to retail electricity customers.
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