In case you missed it, a new accord announced this week by a bipartisan group of 17 governors pledges to accelerate the growth of clean energy, including wind power and other new technologies, as a way to build “a new energy future.”
The accord says creating this new energy path will result in “more durable and resilient infrastructure, and enable economic growth, while protecting the health of our communities and natural resources.”
Rapidly deployable wind power is now one of the biggest, fastest, cheapest ways for states to cut carbon pollution cost-effectively.
Today, U.S. wind energy has quickly grown to have enough installed capacity to produce electricity for 19 million American homes. As a result, American wind power reduces over five percent of power sector emissions across the U.S.
In fact, installed U.S. wind power avoids 126 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power sector each year – or 26 million cars’ worth of reduced carbon emissions.
And after finishing last year as the number source of new electricity generation, with over 8.6 gigawatts (GW) in 2015, wind continues to be on track to supply 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030. Hitting that target would reduce power sector carbon emissions by 20 percent.
According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, wind power’s costs have dropped by two-thirds over the last six years, spurred by American innovation and improved domestic manufacturing. As a result, there are over 500 factories in 43 states that build wind turbine parts and materials. Wall Street investment firm Lazard also shows a cost decline of more than 60 percent, noting that wind energy is the lowest-cost energy source for reducing emissions, even without tax incentives.
Those savings are being passed onto American homeowners and businesses across the country.
DTE Energy, the investor-owned utility serving millions of customers in Michigan, recently said “[w]ind energy accounts for 95 percent of our renewable portfolio” and “wind energy plays a key role in delivering reliable, affordable and clean energy to DTE customers.”
MidAmerican Energy, based in Des Moines, Iowa, recently said the planned expansion of wind there would be “built at no net cost to the company’s customers and will help stabilize electric rates over the long term by providing a rate reduction totaling $10 million per year by 2017 commencing with a $3.3 million reduction in 2015.”
Keeping the lights on with added wind power isn’t an issue either.
Thanks to technological advances that enable wind to provide the same reliability services as conventional power plants, wind plants have reliably supplied more than 40 percent of electricity on the main Texas grid at times, and more than 60 percent on the main utility system in Colorado. Throughout the year wind power helps keep iPhones charging, ovens baking and televisions on in states like Iowa and South Dakota by supplying over 25 percent of their in-state electricity generation.
Growing wind energy benefits states’ economies too.
Today, wind power supports 73,000 well-paying jobs across all 50 states. Under the Department of Energy’s 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030 scenario, that number could increase to 380,000. Wind energy especially benefits rural economies, with land lease payments to farmers and ranchers totaling $195 million a year, and additional payments for schools, hospitals and roads.
It’s because of these reasons that wind energy is the ‘no-regrets’ solution for governors building the ‘new energy future’ or looking for ways to cut carbon from their energy portfolio.
Sloan is vice president for State Policy at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).