New Mexico sets fastest US wind growth in 2017; US launches largest ever wind asset database

Our pick of the latest wind power news you need to know.

New Mexico sets fastest US wind growth as tech giants support projects

New Mexico installed wind power capacity grew by 51% in 2017 to 1.7 GW, a faster growth rate than any other U.S. state, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said in its annual report published April 17. A further 1.7 GW of wind capacity is under construction or in advanced development in New Mexico, it said.

In total, the U.S. installed 7.0 GW of wind power in 2017 to bring total capacity to 89.0 GW. Wind power supplies now more than 30% electricity in Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota, and generates over 10% of electricity in some 14 states.

Falling wind and solar prices have boosted demand for long-term offtake contracts, particularly from technology giants such as Apple, Facebook and Google. U.S. corporate renewable energy PPA volumes hiked 48% in 2017 to 3.1 GW, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). Global corporate renewable PPA volumes climbed 26% to 5.4 GW, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

     US corporate renewable energy deals
                            (Click image to enlarge)

Source: Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), April 2018.

In New Mexico, Facebook worked with local energy supplier PNM Resources to develop a green tariff which enabled wind and solar assets to supply the growing power demand from its data centers, AWEA said.

"These tariffs not only allow our data centers to be powered by 100% renewable energy, but they create new opportunities for the development of hundreds of MW of additional wind and solar energy," Bobby Hollis, Director of Global Energy at Facebook, said in a statement.

"As of today, Facebook has enabled over 1,000 MW of renewable energy to be added to the grid in the U.S,” he said.

The energy supply agreements with Facebook will "serve as a model going forward to continue to attract more economic development opportunities and jobs to our state,” Ron Darnell, PNMR’s Senior Vice President for Public Policy, said.

“We should be doing everything we can to meet our state’s full potential as a wind energy powerhouse, from building new transmission infrastructure to investing in job training programs," Martin Heinrich, Senator for New Mexico, said.

"I will keep fighting for policies that move New Mexico’s energy economy forward,” Senator Heinrich said.

US launches its largest ever wind farm database to support planning

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in collaboration with public and private partners, has released the largest ever database of U.S. operational wind turbines.

The United States Wind Turbine Database (USWTDB) will enable government agencies and private entities to make more informed planning decisions, Berkeley Lab said in a statement April 19.

The database project was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office and developed as part of a public-private partnership with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and in collaboration with the Geological Survey (USGS). Proprietary datasets from each of the organisations were merged and combined with those from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The database currently contains data from more than 57,000 turbines constructed from the 1980s through to 2018, involving more than 1,700 wind power projects across 43 states plus Puerto Rico and Guam.

The database includes wind turbine locations and characteristics including supplier and model, total height, hub height, rotor diameter, rated capacity and year of installation.

The U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration have already used the database to perform assessments of the operational impact of wind turbines on radar, Berkeley Lab said.

"Other examples of uses for the data include studying wind energy and wildlife interactions, reviewing economic impacts assessments of wind energy’s deployment, and better understanding of local wind deployment trends," the research group said.

Belgium announces offshore wind development zone

Belgium is to double the area of its North Sea waters available to offshore wind parks after 2020 to support plans to exit nuclear power, the government announced April 20.

The new offshore wind zone will span 221 square kilometres in an area near French waters.

Belgium currently has four operational wind farms generating a total capacity of 871 MW. The country plans to increase capacity to 2.2 GW by 2020 and 4 GW by 2030. In parallel, Belgium plans to close its 6 GW of nuclear power capacity by 2025.

The new offshore wind farms are expected to be built without any state subsidies, Philippe De Backer, Belgium's Secretary of State for the North Sea, said in a statement.

                      Forecast Europe offshore wind installations

                                                          (Click image to enlarge)

Source: WindEurope, BVG Associates (2017)

Saudi Arabia receives four bids for first large-scale wind project

Saudi Arabia has received four bids for its first large-scale wind power project as the kingdom moves towards its goal of 9.5 GW of renewable capacity by 2023, the Energy Ministry's Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO), said April 17.

Bids for the 400 MW project came from Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power, France's EDF, Engie and Italy's Enel, REPDO said.

The project, located at Dumat Al Jandal in Saudi Arabia’s northwest, is Saudi Arabia’s first large-scale wind power project to be allocated through an international tender.

In February, Saudi Arabia awarded its first international solar tender to ACWA Power. The domestic developer will build a 300 MW solar plant at Sakaka, also in north-west Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) forms part of a wider plan to diversify the economy away from hydrocarbon resources. Around 3.5 GW of new renewable capacity is expected online by 2020.

On March 28, Saudi Arabia and Japan's Softbank signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop a 200 GW solar plant complex in Saudi Arabia by 2030.

The agreement was signed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Softbank founder Masayoshi Son.

If the plant is built, it would be around 10 times larger than the world's next-largest proposed development and would require around $200 billion of investments.

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