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U.S. annual installations have been declining since 2012. Essentially everywhere else, besides China's low quality wind, there's only a handful of new farms being built. Is wind pretty much dead?

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    I can't comment as to whether or why the US installation rate is dropping, but I'd quibble with your idea that wind is dead "essentially everywhere else", and also ask for evidence of China's wind being of low quality (not sure whether you mean the resource or the equipment, but either way...) – Flyto Jun 24 at 5:19
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    You are going to need more facts than just there's only a handful of new farms being built to make this a good question. – Jan Doggen Jun 24 at 8:32
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TL;DR: Wind is not dead, but a diverse set of economic, technical, and political factors have resulted in a leveling off of the rate of new construction.

The cost to build new wind declined for years but has leveled off

From the U.S. Energy Information Agency:

enter image description here

Early wind project developers snagged the best sites

As costs declined, developers harvested the "low hanging fruit" of wind sites: locations with abundant, steady wind, cheap land, good roads, and proximity to transmission infrastructure.

These two factors (abundant suitable locations and declining costs) caused the boom in wind construction seen until about 2012 (despite the recession). From the interactive dashboard by IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency:

enter image description here

With costs level and the best sites taken, new additions are limited by other factors

The International Energy Agency (part of the OECD) provides wind capacity forecasts in their "Renewables 2018" market report and forecast:

enter image description here

The text explains the diverse factors which now influence annual capacity additions:

[T]he phase-out schedule of federal tax incentives in the United States, the expiration of [feed-in tariffs] and grid integration challenges in China, and the timetable of auctions in Europe, India and other regions result in volatile annual additions.

(See this post from the U.S. Energy Information Agency for a good explanation of how tax incentives affect wind build-outs in the U.S.)

The report explains what would have to change to increase the rate of capacity additions:

In China, faster commissioning of transmission lines to reduce curtailment in northern provinces and larger auction volumes in 2021-23 are the main assumptions of the accelerated case. In order to accelerate deployment in the United States, more projects must qualify for federal tax incentives before they are phased out. In the European Union, greater auction activity and faster auction implementation in Germany, France, Spain and Italy drives the accelerated case.

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    Depending on which places you're looking at, there are other issues. A lot of countries in Europe basically have almost no space left for economically sustainable windfarms. In Germany there is also the issue of very complex, lengthy permission proceedings. Repowering is on the rise, but still suitable places are hard to come by, especially with locals fighting hard against wind parks in their vincinity. I heard of projects in the UK, where land owners who wanted to cooperate with wind park planers were harassed extremely by other locals, at least one landowner comitted suicide supposedly. – Erik Jun 25 at 9:06
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In 2018, global wind capacity increased from 515 GW to 564 GW - a 9.5% increase. 20 GW of that 49 GW increase was in China, 11 GW in Europe, 3 GW South America, 8 GW North America.

A 9.5% year-on-year increase is pretty good. It's not dead. It's not merely stable. It's growing.

It's not growing fast enough for the good of the world. There's a huge resource remaining, waiting to be tapped - vast amounts in Europe, and every other continent.

Source: https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2019/Jul/IRENA_Renewable_energy_statistics_2019.pdf

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No, wind power is not dead.

Look at the stock price history of Vestas Wind Systems, one of the major manufacturers of wind turbines.

In 2012, it was as low as 25 DKK.

Today, it's 587 DKK, over 20 times more than the value in 2012.

Do you call a field where companies produce >20x return in 7 years dead?

I wouldn't.

(And to those who claim it might be a bubble: the price/earnings (P/E) ratio is 26.49 so overvaluation compared to neutral P/E 15 is 76.6% -- most of the >20x return is explained by its ability to create profits, and only very little by overvaluation.)

  • I wouldn't either, however it could be a bubble (not saying that it is, but market wise it may resemble one). – gerrit Oct 7 at 8:13
  • @gerrit Agreed, but then again at P/E 26.49 it's not high enough to be a real bubble... – juhist Oct 7 at 8:27
  • I have no clue what P/E is so I'll take your word for that :) – gerrit Oct 7 at 8:40
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As far as Europe is concerned, more than half the new generating capacity installed in 2018 was wind turbine, the the amount installed in the first 6 months of 2019 is increased relative to 2018. In the US, AWEA is reporting that the 3rd quarter rate of installation of new wind turbines was, at just under 2GW, "highest third quarter on record". Doesn't look like there is any significant break in the growth of wind power.

Edit: sorry, that should say "nearly half the new generating capacity (48%) ....". not "more than half ...."

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