Hydroelectric facilities have historically generated the largest share of United States' renewable energy, but according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, that could change this year as wind's rapid growth catches up to hydro.
Hydro provided 7.4% of total utility-scale generation last year, helped by what EIA called "a relatively wet year," but its generation is slated to fall to 6.5% this year and 6.6% in 2019. Wind generated 6.3% last year but is expected to rise to 6.9% by 2019.
Looking ahead, all types of wind resources are likely to expand significantly — particularly as the United States begins to embrace offshore wind facilities. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, offshore wind resources globally will grow by 600% by 2030.
Because the weather is hard to predict, so too are wind and hydro generation.
"Because few new hydro plants are expected to come online in the next two years, hydroelectric generation in 2018 and 2019 will largely depend on precipitation and water runoff," EIA said in its analysis today. "Although changes in weather patterns also affect wind generation, the forecast for wind power output is more dependent on the capacity and timing of new wind turbines coming online."
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Even so, the number of wind projects slated to come online in the next two years, in part to beat the federal production tax credit slated to phase out completely by 2021, could give the resource the edge it needs to beat hydro.
According to the agency's Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory, wind capacity is likely to increase by 8.3 GW in 2018 and 8 GW in 2019 and, if not delayed, would add 9% and 8% to utility-scale wind capacity by the end of 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Meanwhile, offshore wind development is also expected to grow. While Europe has set the bar in terms of offshore wind development, the United States has only just started. There is only one operational project today, with just 30 MW installed capacity, but falling costs are expected to fuel momentum.
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance's latest analysis, the global offshore wind market will grow at a 16% compound annual rate from 2017 to 2030. installed capacity will rise from 17.6 GW to 115 GW in that time.
The U.K., Germany, Netherlands and China will be the major force behind that rise, but BNEF also said that the United States and Taiwan "will also become gigawatt markets." Annual installations are expected to peak in 2027.
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