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Corporate wind purchases soared in 2015

Directpurchases of wind energy by corporate buyers rose significantly in 2015, potentiallysignaling a new trend in renewable energy, according to data released April 7 bythe American Wind Energy Association.

While2014 saw companies announcing deals for wind to supply their energy needs at levelsunheard of in previous years, wind power purchase agreements from nonutility customersin 2015 were more than double the 2014 level as a share of the market, the lobbyinggroup for the wind industry announced. Nonutility purchases made up52% of all wind power contracted through agreements last year. That 52% adds upto 2,074 MW. In 2014, nonutility purchases were at 23% of the market, or around1,500 MW, and just 5%, or about 500 MW, in 2013, according to AWEA data.

Someof the biggest purchases of wind last year were made by Amazon.com Inc.'s cloud computing company, ; ; ; and

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The trendis driven by companies trying to meet internal goals of promoting sustainability,according to AWEA Research Analyst Hannah Hunt. In addition, corporate buyers areseeking stable sources of energy that are not tied to variable fuel costs, suchas energy generated by natural gas. "In recent years, what's bolsteredthis trend is that these companies are interested in low-cost, fixed-price energy,"Hunt said. Out of 8,598 MW of wind capacity added in 2015 in total,more than 800 MW were from long-term contracts.

The data on nonutility purchases also includes wind agreementsmade by noncorporate entities such as universities and cities, AWEA said in a statement.But corporate buyers still dominated this corner of the market, contracting for1,977 MW out of the 2,074 MW, according to an AWEA spokesman.

Corporatepurchases have also continued into 2016. In February, Minnesota-based manufacturer3M Co. it would purchase 120 MW from 's Gunsight Wind EnergyCenter in Texas as part of a program to increase the company's use of renewableenergy by 800,000 MWh to get 25% of its energy from renewables by 2025.

Thatdeal came shortly after Alphabet Inc.unit Google Inc.decided to buy 225 MW from another Invenergy wind facility in Texas, and Invenergyhas also struck a wind dealwith data center company Equinix Inc.The Google deal was the single-biggest wind power purchase agreement signed in 2015,according to AWEA data, with the second-biggest being Amazon Web Services' decisionto buy 208 MW from an Iberdrola RenewablesLLC facility that could be the firstcommercial wind farm in North Carolina. Amazon Web Services also hasan agreement to buy 100 MW from the Timber Road III Wind Farm in Ohio, owned byEDP Renewables North Americaand other companies. AWEA's data comes from its 2015 U.S. Wind Industry Annual MarketReport, set for release April 12.

IberdrolaRenewables is a subsidiary of IberdrolaSA, and EDP Renewables North America is a subsidiary ofEDP - Energias de Portugal SA.