February 10, 2017

New England Hits 1 Gigawatt of Wind Power

Henry Hamel, Commonwealth Wind Fellow

New England hit an impressive milestone in wind technology last year: 1 gigawatt (GW) of wind energy is now being produced in the six states that make up the region.  Maine leads the effort at 613 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity, while New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts follow with 185, 119 and 107 MW of wind power capacity, respectively.  Rhode Island and Connecticut produce 9 and 5 MW of wind power. 

Over the last five years, wind energy has held the honor of being the fastest-growing renewable energy source in America.  This is fantastic news for the wind industry, which accounted for 4.7 percent of total U.S. electricity generation during 2015.  Some states have had more success than others in terms of increasing their wind power capacity.  Texas leads the U.S. in wind generation with 17,000 MW. However, due to Texas’ high energy consumption rate, that figure translates to only 10 percent of the state’s total electricity generation—compare this with Iowa, which generates 6,200 MW of wind energy that contributes 31.3 percent of its electricity generation. 

New England states have been no exception to this phenomenon. Roughly 22 percent of electricity capacity additions over the last five years are thanks to new wind technology.  In Massachusetts specifically, offshore wind projects have been gaining momentum.  The federal government has leased new waters to develop offshore wind farms off the coast of the Commonwealth.

Even though land-based wind has slowed down recently in the densely-packed Massachusetts, Maine has several projects under construction, not to mention the acres of land the state has at its disposal for future wind energy projects. Rhode Island can look forward to the Block Island wind project, which will consist of five turbines and deliver 30 MW of clean wind energy to the popular vacation destination.  The project will mark the first offshore wind farm in the United States.

One thing is for sure: New England and its coastal waters have a bright wind future.