CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Growth in wind power production was down in 2015 due to lower wind speeds in key regions, particularly in western states, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Nationally, power from wind turbines grew by just over 5 percent last year, the smallest increase in 16 years.
Cara Marcy, a renewable electricity analyst and the report’s co-author, says states such as Colorado that put more turbines onto the grid held steady outputs.
“Wyoming is a different story,” she states. “Since it’s the same amount of capacity between the two years, we saw a direct impact on just wind patterns, and we saw a decline in generation of Wyoming of around 14 percent.”
Marcy explains variations in output due to shifting wind patterns are fairly typical.
The report says in 2015, windy weather patterns that bypassed the western states brought stronger gusts instead to the central part of the country, where wind generation growth was the most pronounced.
Wyoming is closer to launching North America’s largest wind farm after the Bureau of Land Management recently gave the thumbs up on the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, which the agency says could power almost 1 million homes.
Marcy says last year’s lower wind output shouldn’t raise red flags about the future of renewables.
“That doesn’t mean that wind and solar are unreliable technologies,” she stresses. “We just have to be smart in how we’re managing these technologies, and determining when we want to turn things on and off.”
Marcy adds wind generation follows seasonal patterns, which vary across the country.
According to Energy Department data, Wyoming, Colorado and Texas tend to peak around April. California generates more wind power in blustery June. And New England sees its strongest outputs in winter, when the demand for power to heat homes is highest.