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Investments, Blowin' in the Wind?

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Nevelyn Black's picture
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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

  • Member since 2017
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  • Apr 21, 2020

WInd outranked solar, becoming the largest provider of renewable energy during 2019.  Wind power is America’s top choice for new power and grew by 19 percent. Headlines cite the fall of oil companies while wind and solar keep growing.  Certainly kudos are in order for all the utility companies that invested and made the shift in time to reap the benefits of last year’s wind power generation upturn.  “US wind power has grown significantly over the past decade, as consumers across the country increasingly turn to wind to provide affordable, reliable, and clean electricity for their communities” American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan said.  The American Wind Energy Association reports that wind accounted for the largest share of energy production in Kansas and Iowa in 2019.  Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that wind power in Kansas increased to 41% of generation last year as coal production fell, accounting for 33% of total energy production.  Research suggests Kansas could still add up to 500 gigawatts of wind production. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, “The proof is in the pudding. Harnessing wind power to generate more than 40 percent of the state’s electricity is a big milestone.”

Hold your applause, COVID-19 is slowing the progress of wind power producers and generation.  According to AWEA analysis, COVID-19 is putting an estimated 25 GW of wind projects at risk, representing $35 billion in investments.  GE’s LM WindPower closed its US plant.  The North Dakota manufacturing plant was forced to close amid 110 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.  This two-week closure and others like it are bound to have a ripple effect in the industry.  Utilities are making changes to accommodate the shift from commercial usage to an increase in residential demand.  As a reference point, according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Italy experienced an 18 percent to 21 percent reduction in peak demand and energy use on a year-over-year basis in the five to seven days after its lockdown began. U.S. utilities are beginning to report similar reductions in load as a result of containment measures to fight COVID-19. 

Despite recent achievements in wind, will investors respond favorably? Can future forecasting be trusted?  Under what circumstances will it be safe to pursue wind aggressively?

A study by Cornell University researchers investigated plausible scenarios and simulations were then repeated for a wind turbine fleet as of 2014, then for doubled installed capacity and quadrupled installed capacity, which represents the capacity necessary to achieve the 20 percent of electricity supply from wind turbines in 2030.  "Our work is designed to inform the expansion of this industry and ensure it's done in a way that maximizes the energy output from wind and thus continues the trend towards lower cost of energy from wind,” said study co-author Sara C. Pryor, a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Studies, Cornell University.  According to Dr. Ashley Crowther with ONYX InSight, a leading predictive analytics partner for asset owners and operators, COVID-19 has decreased O&M costs and forced more efficient practices.  “While there’s no question of the immediate, short term economic and operational challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presents, it’s increasingly evident that as wind engineering and operational teams are forced to accelerate their adoption of remote working tools, previously unforeseen benefits for many are now being realized.”

Whether it's wind or solar, many are hopeful that clean energy will assist in the upcoming months of economic recovery.




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