Global Wind and the Lone Star Leader

There’s fresh data out today from the Global Wind Energy Council (@GWECGlobalWind) showing that installed wind capacity worldwide is now just shy of 500 GW, at 487 GW. The report brings us up to the end of 2016, a year which saw 54 GW of new capacity constructed. China led the table with 42% of the gains, as that country once again suppresses its coal growth at margin, using an array of renewables from solar to hydro. And the US took second position, contributing 15% of the global total. Overall, China and the US are both undertaking aggressive changes in their powergrids, using the twin forces of wind and solar.

Of course, with wind, what we care most about is generation. In 2015 (latest year for generation data), global wind provided about 840 TWh, in a year that the world produced 24,010 TWh of electricity, or about 3.5%. That’s impressive. And given 2016 growth, wind generation last year might be estimated to have hit 950 TWh, as the world produced an estimated 24,500 TWh of electricity, or 3.8%.

But there are domains where wind growth is moving even faster, reaching higher levels of penetration. One of the legacy criticisms of renewable power is that it could never contribute more than a scant trace of overall load (demand). But in US states like Iowa, and Texas, wind power now regularly provides a high share of total electricity.

Just five years ago, for example, Texas wind generation regularly produced about 5% of total electricity sales, and topped out seasonally (during high wind months of Spring) at 10%. Last year, however, Texas wind regularly provided 10% of electricity, and often topped out above 15%. For 2016, Texas wind power will likely average out at 15% of total electricity sales. That’s not merely impressive; it’s a major contribution.

–Gregor Macdonald

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