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Fiber reinforced plastic composites demand by market, 2015 (3.4 billion pounds) <i>(Source: Freedonia)</i>
Fiber reinforced plastic composites demand by market, 2015 (3.4 billion pounds) (Source: Freedonia)

US Demand for fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) composites in the manufacture of wind turbine components is forecast to expand 5.9% per year through 2020 to 152 million pounds, according to Freedonia's latest report.

This will be a moderation from the explosive growth registered between 2005-2015, from just 25 million pounds in 2005 to 114 million pounds in 2015. However, this belies the tumultuous nature of the market during this decade, as wind energy installations waxed and waned from year to year depending mostly on the level of federal subsidies available.

Because subsidy funds were not always renewed before the expiration of the previous subsidy, there were often large gaps in funding. As a result, wind energy installations rose sixfold in 2005, more than doubled in 2007, decreased by over 40% in 2010, and declined by over 90% in 2013, before bouncing back fourfold in 2014 and nearly doubling in 2015.

Wind energy will continue to account for an increasingly large share of electricity generation as public utilities seek to meet state-mandated renewable energy standards, according to Freedonia. Additionally, a more stable tax credit regime will help bring multiyear reliability to a market perpetually faced with unpredictable levels of funding.

The extension of the federal Production Tax Credit at the end of 2015 is seen as a major industry event in the US that will reduce demand volatility through 2020. State renewable energy standards – some of which are met through wind capacity – should also provide some degree of insulation to the market, though wind installation capacity growth rates have outpaced program requirements in recent years.

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