Over the past decade, costs for commercial wind turbines and wind projects in the United States have steadily declined. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the average cost of wind power in the United States fell from $0.137 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2009 to $0.06 per kWh in 2019, a decrease of more than 50% (1). This reduction in cost can be attributed to a number of factors, including advances in technology, economies of scale, and increased competition in the wind energy market.
One of the key factors that has contributed to the reduction in the cost of commercial wind turbines is the development of larger and more efficient turbines. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the average capacity of wind turbines installed in the United States has increased from 1.5 megawatts (MW) in 2009 to 2.5 MW in 2019 (2). This increase in capacity has been driven by the development of larger blades and more efficient generators, which have allowed turbines to capture more energy from the wind. Additionally, the use of taller towers has also increased the efficiency of wind turbines, as taller towers can expose turbines to stronger and more consistent wind speeds.
Another important factor that has contributed to the reduction in the cost of commercial wind turbines is the economies of scale. As the wind energy market has grown in the United States, and suppliers have developed more efficient components and equipment, costs to consumers have decreased.
Because of technological advances, wind turbine manufacturers have been able to produce components in larger quantities, reducing the cost per unit. Additionally, as the wind energy market has matured, the cost of financing wind projects has also decreased, as investors have become more familiar with the technology and the risks associated with it. Furthermore, the learning-by-doing effect of the wind industry has led to the cost decrease of wind projects (3).
Increased competition in the wind energy market has also played a role in reducing the cost of commercial wind turbines and wind projects. According to the DOE, there are now more than 100 wind turbine manufacturers operating in the United States, and this competition has led to a decrease in the cost of turbines and equipment. Additionally, as the cost of wind energy has decreased, it has become increasingly competitive with other forms of energy, such as natural gas and coal, which has led to more wind energy projects being built in the United States. Furthermore, the price of wind energy equipment has been decreasing due to the increased competition among the suppliers and the technological advancements (4).
However, it's important to note that the cost of wind energy still varies depending on the location. Wind projects located in regions with high wind speeds and good wind resources tend to be more cost-effective than projects located in regions with lower wind speeds. Additionally, the cost of wind energy can also be influenced by factors such as the cost of land, the availability of transmission infrastructure, and the regulatory environment. According to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the cost of wind energy can vary by as much as 30% depending on the location and other factors (5).
In summary, the cost of commercial wind turbines and wind projects in the United States has been on a downward trend in recent years. Advances in technology, economies of scale, and increased competition in the wind energy market have all played a role in reducing the cost of wind energy. However, the cost of wind energy varies depending on location and other factors such as land costs, transmission infrastructure availability and regulatory environment. Despite the decrease in cost, wind energy is still considered as one of the most cost-competitive renewable energy sources(6). The cost of wind energy is expected to continue decreasing in the future, making it an even more competitive energy source.
U.S. Department of Energy. (2020). "Wind Technologies Market Report." https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/downloads/2020-wind-technologies-market-report
American Wind Energy Association. (2020). "U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report." https://www.awea.org/report/us-wind-industry-annual-market-report-year-ending-2019
Wiser, Ryan and Bolinger, Mark. (2017). "2017 Wind Technologies Market Report" https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy17osti/68481.pdf
Lilliestam, John and Giebel, Gregor.(2018). "Cost of wind energy review 2018" https://www.windeurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/181106-WE-COE-2018-FINAL-online.pdf
Hand, M.M., et al. (2017). "The cost of wind energy in the United States" https://emp.lbl.gov/sites/default/files/lbnl-1005270.pdf
IRENA. (2019). "Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2018" https://www.irena.org/reports/2019/Apr/Renewable-Power-Generation-Costs-in-2018