Climate Progress notes that wind power is now cost competitive with gas fired power in the US - Wind now on even playing field with gas; GE to build nation’s largest solar panel factory. Romm's post also notes that General Electric plan to build the largest solar panel factory in the US - producing 400 MW per year of Cadmium Telluride thin film solar PV panels (producing some snark from SP at TOD ANZ).
Though the U.S. wind industry installed half as much capacity last year as it did in 2009, production streamlining and efficiency improvements mean wind can compete evenly with cheap natural gas, wind industry executives said today.
There was 5,116 megawatts of new capacity installed across the nation in 2010, down sharply from nearly 10,000 MW the year before. But the industry grew by about 15 percent as new equipment manufacturing facilities sprouted in almost every state.
And heated competition has driven prices down much more quickly than anticipated, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) told investors at a wind finance workshop now under way.
As a result, wind power generators say they can now offer utilities long-term purchase power agreements (PPAs) at the same price as natural gas-fired power plants….
Projections of future growth in the industry and claims that grid parity with natural gas has largely been achieved have upended earlier fears that record low gas prices would punish the wind sector for years to come.
AWEA figures show that the average wind PPAs are now being priced at about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, the same price for energy procurements from a combined cycle natural gas plant. The group says wind is actually about 2 cents cheaper than coal-fired electricity, and more projects were financed through debt arrangements than tax equity structures last year, a possible sign that wind deals are winning more mainstream acceptance from Wall Street’s banks….
[AWEA chief economist Elizabeth] Salerno credits the breakthrough in cost to improved turbine design and performance, higher towers and longer blades, which have boosted the reliability and performance of wind power generation. Equipment makers can also deliver products in the same year that they are ordered instead of waiting up to three years as was the case in previous cycles, she said, calling it a sign of a mature supply chain.
Figures suggest the industry could be set to explode in size this year in terms of new installations.
The group estimates that 5,600 MW of new installed capacity is under construction in the United States, more than double the number at this point in 2010. Thirty-five percent of all new power generation built in the United States since 2005 has come from wind, more than new gas and coal plants combined, as power providers are increasingly enticed to wind as a convenient hedge against unpredictable commodity price moves, AWEA said.