Federal subsidies poised to ease U.S. reliance on imported wind parts

Washington D.C. Correspondent
Source: Land-Based Wind Market Report: 2023 Edition, U.S. Energy Department. • Figures are in 2022 dollars. Components include four different categories encompassing the entire wind turbine structure.

The United States relied on Mexico, India and Spain for key onshore wind energy parts in 2022, but government analysts say that dependency may ease up as federal subsidies to boost domestic manufacturing take effect.  

Those three countries together provided nearly 80% of the wind blades installed across the country last year, according to a recent report from the U.S. Energy Department.  

President Joe Biden has made decarbonizing the power sector by 2035 and boosting domestic cleantech manufacturing key aspects of his climate agenda. Wind energy — both onshore and offshore — has a critical role to play in meeting the 2035 goal.  

Wind projects have recently been buffeted by a series of economic setbacks, including soaring steel prices and interest rates. But analysts say the onshore wind industry may start growing again as the newly expanded production and clean manufacturing tax credits from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act kick in.  

The prospects for wind energy in the longer term will be influenced by the implementation of the 2022 law, which not only provides extensions and expansions of existing tax credits for deploying clean technologies but also includes new incentives for the buildout of domestic cleantech supply chains.  

The U.S. has made strides in boosting some parts of wind turbines, but not others, according to the Energy Department report.   

For instance, over 85% of nacelle assemblies (the large white boxes that house all the energy generating components like gearboxes at the top of wind towers) and 70% to 85% of tower manufacturing for wind power installed in the U.S. in 2022 occurred in the country. In contrast, the domestic manufacture of blades and hubs has “declined precipitously” in recent years to just 5% to 25% in 2022, according to the report. 

The U.S. will see less reliance on imports going forward as more domestic factories taking advantage of IRA tax credits come online in the next three or four years, said Ryan Wiser, report author and senior scientist with the U.S. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  

Despite a lag between the time companies make announcements, begin construction and bring factories online, Wiser said he expects to see a resurgence in the domestic wind supply chain in the years ahead.