In 2012, for the first time, more new wind generation was installed than new natural gas- or coal-fired generation as developers rushed to take advantage of expiring tax credits.
Many in the wind industry don’t expect as big of a year in 2013. But if utilities and policymakers heed the findings of two recent reports from grid managers and planners, the next two decades will look a lot more like 2012 — with wind and other renewables continuing to outpace new fossil-fuel generation.
In late December, a Department of Energy-funded planning group released a landmark report indicating that building out wind generation and associated transmission is more affordable over the long haul than continuing to rely mostly on coal and gas for supplying the eastern United States with electricity between now and 2030.
Also in December, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released a report with a detailed long-term assessment of generation and transmission needs for the Texas interconnection. Using recent real-world data on wind and solar installation, prices and generation potential, they found that new wind and solar installations would outpace natural gas plants between now and 2032.
Renewable energy advocates say the results mean that wind and solar can cost-effectively provide most of our energy, and perhaps sooner than we realize. Other energy analysts, however, caution that which generation sources get built still depends very much on policy.