Wind Energy Gains Speed Across U.S.

In its latest annual market report, American Wind Energy Association highlights expansion of this power source.

wind energyFrom the American Wind Energy Association
From the June 2018 Issue

After strong growth in 2017, wind power now supplies more than 30% of the electricity in four states—Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Meanwhile, New Mexico added wind power capacity at a faster rate than any other state last year. The rapid expansion of this renewable energy source in the United States reflects its key role at the center of a transformation in the country’s electricity sector. The industry’s latest trends and milestones from 2017 are detailed in the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report 2017 released in May 2018. According to the new report, more American homes and businesses use wind energy than ever before and the industry employs a record 105,500 men and women across all 50 states.

“American wind power reached new heights for energy generated and U.S. jobs in 2017. And don’t be surprised when the industry continues to break records,” says Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “Wind is competitively priced, reliable, and clean—a winning combination that’s creating economic growth in all 50 states.”

wind energy
(Photo: FLICKR USER tommy clark)

“States are where the action is happening for wind with our federal tax credit on an orderly path to phase out by 2019,” adds Kiernan. “Individual states’ policy choices and the strength of their infrastructure will play a big role in determining where wind power’s future growth is channeled.”

Wind power generated a record 6.3% of U.S. electricity in 2017. The impact is even more pronounced at the state level where Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota generated over 30% of their electricity using wind. Nationally, 14 states generate more than 10% of their electricity from wind. Operating wind power capacity grew 9% last year.

The installation of 7,017 megawatts (MW) of wind in 2017 brings total U.S. installed wind power capacity to 88,973 MW. That’s just under 54,000 wind turbines operating in 41 states, Guam and Puerto Rico.

New Mexico stands out as an emerging wind powerhouse, adding wind power capacity at a faster rate than any other state in 2017. The state added 570 MW last year—a 51% increase over the 1,112 MW installed at the end of 2016. Wind farms supplied over 13% of the state’s electricity generation last year, enough to power over 422,000 average homes. New Mexico is now ranked 15th in the nation with 1,682 MW of installed capacity.

“I’m proud that New Mexico’s wind power capacity grew at a faster rate than any other state and generated an unprecedented level of private sector investment and job growth,” says U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. “With our robust wind and solar resources, New Mexico is at the epicenter of the rapidly growing clean energy economy. As consumers and major companies demand cheaper and cleaner power sources, our state stands to benefit and become an even bigger leader in this booming energy sector—especially in rural communities.”

“We should be doing everything we can to meet our state’s full potential as a wind energy powerhouse, from building new transmission infrastructure to investing in job training programs. I will keep fighting for policies that move New Mexico’s energy economy forward,” Heinrich concludes.

With 1,723 MW under construction or in advanced development, New Mexico wind capacity is on track to double in the near term. To unlock New Mexico’s full wind power potential, the state will need to expand transmission line infrastructure and continue to implement successful energy policies. More transmission lines make for a stronger, more secure power grid. These lines also create export opportunities to sell New Mexico wind into the regional energy economy. Implementing policies that attract investment in a diverse energy mix, like New Mexico’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, help the state stay competitive and attract future investment.

Wind’s low cost and stable prices drive strong customer demand. And new technology is helping the industry reach performance heights, with new projects operating at annual capacity factors of 40% and higher. As a result, the cost of wind energy is down two-thirds since 2009.

In New Mexico, these trends are helping diversify the energy supply and the economy. Access to renewable energy, including abundant wind resources, was a key consideration in Facebook’s decision to triple the size of its New Mexico data center, representing a $1 billion investment in addition to more than 200 MW of wind and 80 MW of solar investment. Facebook worked with PNM Resources, the local energy provider, to develop a green tariff that enabled two new wind farms and additional solar resources to supply the data center. Facebook’s latest investments represent an over 50% increase in renewable energy in the PNM resource portfolio.

“Facebook is committed to increasing access to renewable energy resources. We are proud of the work we have done in states like New Mexico to spur the growth of renewable energy and develop green tariffs,” says Bobby Hollis, director of global energy at Facebook. “These tariffs not only allow our data centers to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, but they create new opportunities for the development of hundreds of megawatts of additional wind and solar energy. As of today, Facebook has enabled over 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy to be added to the grid in the U.S.”

“The partnership we used to provide the renewable energy for the data centers in Los Lunas will serve as a model going forward to continue to attract more economic development opportunities and jobs to our state,” says Ron Darnell, PNMR senior vice president for public policy. “Today, PNM utilizes enough wind energy in New Mexico to power 100,000 homes and that number will go higher as we continue to work together toward our common goals.”

U.S. wind power continues to create jobs across the country, employing a record 105,500 people. Wind projects or wind-related factories are present in all 50 states, plus Guam and Puerto Rico. Nationally, wind turbine technician is one of the country’s two fastest growing jobs, along with solar installer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The wind industry invests heavily in rural communities, which host 99% of wind farms. Ranchers and farmers were paid an estimated $267 million in 2017 to lease private land for wind farm development, while retaining the ability to farm or raise livestock under the turbines. In rural communities across the nation, wind investment provides career opportunities and property, state, and local tax revenue to fund schools, roads, and emergency services.

Wind power is not only cost-competitive, it also improves air quality and saves water. Operating wind projects avoided 189 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and helped avoid the use of 95 billion gallons of water in 2017. And, because wind power uses almost no water, less than any other energy source, farmers and ranchers in drought-prone regions have less competition for vital water resources.

Based in Washington, DC, the American Wind Energy Association is the national trade association for the U.S. wind industry. Members of AWEA include wind power project developers and parts manufacturers, utilities, and researchers.

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