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American wind projects on the move

image credit: Adobe Stock

Despite the recent economic slowdown, the American wind industry continues to grow rapidly.  According to new data compiled by the ABB Velocity Suite research team, already in 2020 more than 3.5 gigawatts (GW) of new wind farms have started operation across the country, with more than 21 GW of wind capacity currently under construction, testing or preparing sites for construction.  Most of that capacity, roughly 14.2 GW (68.3%), is expected online by the end of this year. 

U.S. wind capacity additions, MW, through June 10, 2020

The largest project to become operational in 2020 so far is Clearway Energy Group’s Mesquite Star project, a 419 MW wind farm in Fisher County, Texas.  The project secured long-term contracts with several corporate and institutional customers including Ecolab, Lowe’s, Intuit, and Brown University.  Construction was handled by Blattner Energy, Inc. with turbines supplied by Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and a tax equity investment by BHE Renewables.

Along with the recent announcement that Mesquite Star is now operational, back in early April, Denmark-based Ørsted announced the completion of its 338 MW Sage Draw Wind project in Texas.  The 120-turbine project spans parts of Garza and Lynn counties.  The Ørsted project’s key partners included Blattner Energy and GE Renewable Energy, and as financial partners, GE Energy Financial Services and BHE Renewables.    

The Top 10 largest projects recently completed include:

  • Mesquite Star, Clearway Energy Group (419 MW), Fisher County, Texas
  • Sage Draw Wind, Ørsted (338 MW), Garza and Lynn counties in Texas
  • Palo Alto Wind, Invenergy LLC (250 MW) Adair County, Iowa
  • Clear Creek Energy Center, Tenaska Inc. (242 MW), Nodaway County, Missouri
  • Prevailing Wind Park, FTP Power LLC (208 MW), Yankton County, South Dakota
  • Blazing Star Wind Farm, Xcel Energy (200 MW), Lincoln County, Minnesota
  • Whispering Willow North, Alliant Energy Corp. (200 MW), Franklin County, Iowa
  • East Fork Wind Farm, ENGIE SA (196 MW), Thomas County, Kansas
  • Heart of Texas RTS 2, Scout Clean Energy (180 MW), McCulloch County, Texas
  • Polaris Wind Park, Invenergy LLC (168 MW) Gratiot County, Michigan

The largest wind project currently under construction is Invenergy’s Traverse Wind Energy Center.  The 999 MW project is located on land north of Weatherford, Oklahoma.  The estimated capital investment is $1.2 billion, with electricity production contracted by American Electric Power Company.

The largest projects (>300 MW) currently under construction include:

  • Traverse Wind Energy, Invenergy LLC (999 MW), Custer and Blaine counties in Oklahoma, 2021
  • Aviator Wind, Apex Clean Energy Inc. (525 MW), Coke County, Texas, 2020
  • Sagamore Wind Project, Invenergy LLC (522 MW), Roosevelt County, New Mexico, 2020
  • Goodnight Wind Energy Project, FGE Power (504 MW), Armstrong County, Texas, 2021
  • Cheyenne Ridge Wind Project, Enel SpA (500 MW), Cheyenne County, Colorado, 2020
  • High Prairie Wind Project, Energy Capital Partners (400 MW), Schuyler County, Missouri, 2020
  • Alle Catt Wind, Invenergy LLC (381 MW), Cattaraugus County, New York, 2021
  • Deuel Harvest North Wind Farm, Invenergy LLC (310 MW), Deuel County, South Dakota, 2020
  • Thunderhead Wind Project, Invenergy LLC (301 MW), Antelope County, Nebraska, 2020
  • Diamond Spring Wind, ALLETE Inc. (300 MW), Johnston County, Oklahoma, 2020
  • Neosho Ridge Wind, Apex Clean Energy Inc. (300 MW), Neosho County, Kansas, 2020 
  • Aurora Wind Project, Enel Spa (300 MW), Williams County, North Dakota, 2020
  • Prairie Hill Wind, ENGIE SA (300 MW), McLennan County, Texas, 2020
  • Crowned Ridge Wind II, NextEra Energy (300 MW), Codington County, South Dakota, 2020
  • Wheatridge Wind Energy Facility, NextEra Energy (300 MW), Morrow County, Oregon, 2020
  • Outlaw Wind Project, Enel Spa (299 MW), Atchison County, Missouri, 2020  

The top states where windfarm projects are under construction or testing include:

  • Texas – 2,780 MW
  • Oklahoma – 2,587 MW
  • Missouri – 1,234 MW
  • New Mexico – 1,115 MW
  • South Dakota – 1,108 MW
  • Wyoming – 976 MW
  • New York – 810 MW
  • Michigan – 762 MW
  • Illinois – 742 MW
  • Colorado – 670 MW
  • 16 additional states – 4,755 MW

Key milestones achieved for two offshore projects

Earlier this week, the U.S Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) completed a Supplement to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Vineyard Wind I offshore energy project.  The SEIS marks a new milestone in the ongoing permit process to construct the 800-megawatt (MW) project located approximately 14 miles from the southeast corner of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.   The project involves the construction of 84 towers with 9.5 MW turbines, in water depths ranging from 121 to 161 feet.  Vineyard Wind I is a joint venture of Iberdrola S.A. subsidiary Avangrid Renewables, and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. 

The SEIS document was published in the Federal Register on June 12, 2020, with a 45-day public comment period that includes five live virtual public meetings.  The Final EIS is expected to be published on November 13, 2020, with the issuance of Record of Decision (ROD) on December 18, 2020.  Shortly after the ROD (within 90 days) the BOEM will issue their decision to permit and approve the project’s Construction and Operations Plan (COP).  Most of the major federal permitting milestones have been met.

The SEIS includes additional input from federal, state and local governments, industry, and the public.  The supplemental analysis included a study of newly available fishing data, a new transit lane alternative, and changes to the COP since the publication of the Draft EIS on December 7, 2018.

The original plan was for the project to start construction in 2019 and reach completion sometime during 2022, but with delays in permitting, that date will be pushed back. 

In addition to the recent BOEM SEIS Vineyard Wind I release, late last month (May 21), the Ohio Public Siting Board (OPSB) granted a conditioned certificate to build the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation’s (LEEDCo) proposed Icebreaker Wind offshore project. LEEDCo is a non-profit public-private partnership whose members include the City of Cleveland, the Port of Cleveland, the Cleveland Foundation, Cuyahoga, Lake, Ashtabula and Lorain counties in Ohio, and Erie County in Pennsylvania.  

The certificate included 33 conditions be met during and after construction and during operation in order to move forward.  One of the key conditions is to provide the OPSB with a plan to mitigate bird and bat collisions through an extensive monitoring period.  Until it is proven the rotating turbine blades are not impacting bird populations, the certificate requires complete feathering (stopping rotation) of the turbines for a seven-month period from March 1 through November 1 during nighttime hours.

If the project moves forward it will be the largest freshwater offshore wind project in the world.  The 20.7 MW, six-turbine offshore wind facility would be constructed in Lake Erie about 8 to 10 miles from Cleveland, Ohio.  Developers of the project estimate public benefits of roughly $253 million over the life of the project including construction and ongoing maintenance.  Along with the turbine construction, the project includes a 12-mile submerged transmission line to move power to Cleveland Public Power’s Lake Road onshore substation.  Project developers and partners were given 30 days to ask the OPSB to reconsider its decision regarding the possibly deal-breaking conditions laid out in the build certification. 

The growth in new wind farms continues across the country with no slowdown in sight.  Currently, there are more than 20 GW of wind development projects either under construction, testing, or undergoing site preparations.  Along with the current unprecedented growth in U.S. onshore wind, offshore development is beginning to move forward as recent milestones in the permitting process have been achieved by some major project developers.  Driven by federal, state, local, and corporate clean energy goals, development in wind power across the United States is expected to continue at a high rate well into the future.

Kent Knutson's picture

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 15, 2020 9:18 pm GMT

The top states where windfarm projects are under construction or testing include:

Texas – 2,780 MW

Oklahoma – 2,587 MW

Missouri – 1,234 MW

New Mexico – 1,115 MW

South Dakota – 1,108 MW

Wyoming – 976 MW

New York – 810 MW

Michigan – 762 MW

Illinois – 742 MW

Colorado – 670 MW

16 additional states – 4,755 MW

A lot of midwestern states here, which makes NY's inclusion stick out. What is NY doing right here that other coastal states aren't? 

Kent Knutson's picture
Kent Knutson on Jun 16, 2020 7:47 pm GMT

Matt, New York has set some lofty goals, including plans to generate 70% of the state's electricity from renewable resources by 2030 and then reach 100% zero-carbon power by 2040.  That makes the state ripe for any renewable power projects including both onshore and offshore wind.  In addition, the state is looking at importing hydropower from Canada.  The development of wind has been a tough row to hoe though -- most onshore projects are heavily scrutinized with the NIMBY issue front and center stage.  We'll see how this all pans out as the state begins to implement plans to reach the goals that have been set.  thx for your note.    

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