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US total distributed wind capacity exceeds 1.1GW in 2018

Much of last year's 50.5MW in capacity additions came from distributed wind systems using turbines of 1MW or greater nameplate capacity

Cumulative US distributed wind capacity stood at 1.13GW at the end of 2018 across all 50 states, Guam and the US Virgin Islands with commercial, industrial and utility projects playing a growing role in driving sector growth, according to a new Department of Energy (DOE) report.

Since 2003, owners have installed more than 83,000 turbines in distributed wind systems, most below 100kW nameplate capacity although use of 1-3MW units has increased in recent years at large plant sites.

These systems are distributed energy resources connected at the distribution level of the electricity system or in microgrid or off-grid applications.

In 2018, 12 states added 50.5MW of new distributed wind capacity comprising 2,684 units and $226m in investment, according to the 2018 Distributed Wind Market Report prepared by DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

A total of 47.4MW came from projects using turbines greater than 1MW and 1.6MW came from mid-size turbines. The total of 49 MW represents $218m in investment.

Utilities accounted for 50% of capacity installed in 2018 using 1MW or larger turbines with much of the balance for industrial and government applications.

For example, Valfilm, a plastic fabrication company located in Ohio, is a new customer for One Energy, which installed two 1.5-MW Goldwind turbines for the company in 2018. Green Development installed a 1.5MW Vensys turbine to power multiple municipal facilities in Otis, Massachusetts.

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Exports are now a relatively small part of business for US small wind turbine manufacturers – 1MW in 2018 versus 5.5MW the prior year, driven primarily be feed-in tariff programme changes in Japan, Italy and UK.

Texas is the largest domestic market for distributed wind systems with 191MW of installed capacity through 2018 followed by Iowa (187MW) and Minnesota (132MW).

In a sampling of projects, the report found that small wind average levelized cost of energy after incentives was 23 cent/kWh, 14 cent/kWh for mid-size turbine projects and 5 cent/kWh for large-scale.

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