ORIGINAL REPORTING: Wind Moving Into The Market
Declining prices, stable outlook drive utilities, large companies to wind power; Power providers are looking to the resource as a hedge against natural gas prices and future environmental regulations
Herman K. Trabish, April 21, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor's Note: Wind's record growth continues.
Natural gas is the new leader in the electric power mix but there is a growing realization among utilities in some regions of the country that it may not be the best bet on cost over the long term. While gas prices are near historic lows today, few analysts believe they will stay that way. And with a growing global consensus around climate action, many companies expect further regulations on fossil fuels. Set against those doubts is a period of relative stability for large-scale renewable energy, particularly wind. The industry says it has cut installed costs 66% since 2009, and expects them to keep falling. All that has made new investments in wind energy particularly appealing to many utilities, especially those in the center of the country.
Xcel Energy Colorado had a U.S. utility-leading 6,545 MW of wind capacity on its system at the end of 2015 and was also the eighth biggest holder of new wind capacity last year with 350 MW. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE) has 5,525 MW it its portfolio, ranking it second in total system wind, and its 4,375 MW of owned capacity makes it first in direct wind ownership. Wind energy provided 4.7% of U.S. electricity in 2015, the most of any non-hydro renewable resource. Renewables met 13.7% of the nation’s electricity demand, with hydro leading at 6%. Wind topped the list of new capacity for 2015, providing 41%. Solar was second, with 28.5%, and natural gas was third, with 28.1%. The U.S. wind industry installed 8,598 MW of new capacity across 20 states in 2015, an annual growth rate of 12.3%. It was the industry’s third biggest year ever, a 77% increase over 2014…