Turbines propel Nebraska past a wind-energy milestone




Nebraska has joined the “Gigawatt Club.”

With the raising of Grand Prairie, a 400-megawatt wind farm in Holt County, Nebraska has sailed past 1,000 megawatts — or 1 gigawatt — of wind-generated capacity. It’s the 18th state to join the club, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

For the first time last year, wind accounted for more than 10 percent of electricity generated in Nebraska, the association reported last month. Just five years ago, that figure was less than 3 percent, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.

Nebraska’s turbines provide 1,328 megawatts of capacity, and there are more on the way, looking to take advantage of the state’s largely untapped wind potential. Developers have 7 megawatts of turbines under construction and others totaling 586 megawatts in development, the association reported in its first quarterly report for 2017.

Despite ranking fourth among states in abundant wind, Nebraska has long been a straggler when it comes to harnessing that resource. The state briefly climbed to 17th in wind energy production last year before being bumped down to 18th by New Mexico during this year’s first quarter.

The fact that Nebraska has lagged behind other states such as Iowa — which became the first state to generate 35 percent of its electricity from wind in 2016 — could play into its favor in attracting future development, said David Bracht, director of the Nebraska Energy Office.

“Given the fact that Nebraska has really good wind and has, relatively speaking, developed less of that, we have more of our very best wind left to develop,” Bracht said.

Another factor in Nebraska’s favor is that its wind is some of the most-productive in the country. Turbines can only spin when the wind blows. Nebraska’s turbines cranked out electricity an average of 45 percent of the time in 2016, the highest rate in the nation, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Nebraska’s electricity is provided by a network of nonprofit public power districts that can’t collect federal wind production tax credits like investor-owned utilities in other states can, a factor that has long been cited as a barrier to wind development.

Lincoln Electric System and other Nebraska utilities have tackled that obstacle by signing contracts to buy power from private turbine owners who collect the tax credits, such as Invenergy, which has a regional office in Littleton, Colorado, and owns Prairie Breeze II Wind Energy Center, a 41-turbine complex in Antelope and Boone counties.

Click here to read the whole story.

America’s First Offshore Wind Energy Makes Landfall in Rhode Island

BLOCK ISLAND, Rhode Island—America’s first offshore wind farm will connect today to Block Island, a small, pork chop-shaped landmass off the tip of Long Island. For Cliff McGinnes, a co-owner of the Block Island Power Company, the transition to wind energy can’t come soon enough.

For decades, McGinnes’s company ferried up to a million gallons of diesel fuel a year from the Rhode Island mainland to power this tiny resort community (pop. 1,000). The fuel, a particularly costly and dirty energy source whose carbon dioxide emissions are second only to burning coal, lit up four antiquated generators on an island where power outages are common.

Last year, an oil leak at one generator burst into flames, destroying that dynamo and two others. The fire also melted one of McGinnes’s utility trucks and caused rolling blackouts at the height of the summer tourism season, when the Block Island population balloons past 20,000. The company spent more than $100,000 to rent a pair of portable diesel generators. Customers, who already pay more for electricity than anyone in the country—50 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) or more during peak summer months, nearly five times the national average—shouldered the costs.

From now on, Block Island’s power will emanate from five wind turbines three miles off its southeast coast, each nearly twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. They were built by a company called Deepwater Wind at a cost of roughly $300 million. The energy they produce will not be cheap. Yet at a starting cost of 24 cents per kWh, the new system will save Block Islanders $25 to $30 a month off their electricity bills.

Offshore wind power clearly works for Block Island, a place where the economics of fossil fuels no longer makes sense. Can it also be an important part of the energy mix  for the coastal U.S.? Analysts say it can, though states will have to work with developers to bring the costs down.

For now, fossil fuel-generated power still dominates in New England, where just 3 percent of electricity currently comes from wind and solar. But the Block Island pilot project, capable of powering 17,000 homes, offers the promise of more to come. The environmental group Oceana once dubbed the Eastern Seaboard the “Saudi Arabia of offshore wind” for its strong ocean breezes, shallow waters and close proximity to a densely populated region eager to decarbonize. Massachusetts and New York have both committed to generating a portion of their power in coming years from offshore wind, and Deepwater Wind is slated to build a larger clone of the Rhode Island wind farm—which began supplying power to the mainland in December—to serve Long Island.

Meanwhile, first-mover Rhode Island is in a position to capture a significant share of the approximately 11,000 jobs and $50 billion in investment projected for a potential 20-year regional build-out.

Onshore wind power has proved its worth. Electricity from new installations—which are being erected at a pace of roughly one turbine every two and a half hours around the country—sells for less than 6 cents per kWh, a price competitive with natural gas.

Offshore wind is still much more expensive, but that could change. Europe has shown that, when produced on a big enough scale, such power can compete. There, the price has fallen 46 percent in the last five years to an average of 13 cents per kWh. The figure beats the 16 cents for new nuclear power plants and is closing in on Europe’s 9 cent price tag for new coal plants, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“If we could do what Europe is doing, then it would be at market price today,” said Willett Kempton, research director at the University of Delaware’s center for carbon-free power integration.

Block Island’s McGinnes, a lifelong Republican with no environmental leanings, is a convert. As chief operating officer of the Block Island Power Company, a position the plain-spoken 82-year-old Rhode Island native relinquished in November, his interest in wind was driven mostly by economics.

Block Island Wind Farm

Cliff McGinnes, co-owner of the Block Island Power Company. Photo: Phil McKenna

“For some people in this world, it doesn’t matter what the cost is,” McGinnes said, sitting at his desk last August before he retired as chief operating officer of Block Island Power. “They want to feel green, or they want to have an electric car, or they don’t want to get their electricity from a company that burns fuel oil. I have a tendency to be more about cost. That’s just the way I am.”

When the power company executives flip the switch, energy will flow from the turbines to the island via a subsea cable already connected to the mainland. The turbines will harness a steady offshore breeze that on most days will supply all the island’s energy needs and send additional electricity to the mainland. When the wind is not blowing, electricity will flow in reverse, sending electrons from conventional power plants on the mainland to the island. Costs will be subsidized by the larger pool of ratepayers statewide, who will see their electricity bills increase by an average of $1.35 per month when the system is in full operation.

McGinnes likes both the economics and the relative simplicity of wind power. “Running those diesels is nothing but a headache; there is always something going wrong,” said McGinnes. “If it hadn’t been for the wind farm and cable, we’d still be running them. It’s the best thing that has ever happened to us as a community.”

Read the full story here.

Companies have big plans to make more products using renewables



We’ve seen the good news that Fortune 500 companies like General Motors,Facebook, The Home Depot, and now Apple are making smart investments to procure wind energy, realizing long-term price stability and cutting pollution at the same time.

But how many more companies are in line to invest?

A new report by WWF, Ceres, Calvert Research & Management and CDP shows how more and more Fortune 500 companies are setting renewable energy targets, increasing the number of corporate purchasers ready to procure stably priced and reliable wind energy.

In total the report reveals that 48 percent of all Fortune 500 companies now have targets in place for either renewable energy procurement, carbon pollution reductions, or energy efficiency– a steady increase over the 43 percent reported in 2014.

These goals save America’s companies billions of dollars. In 2016 alone, emissions-saving projects translated to a combined $3.7 billion in savings for these companies.

Looking closer, 53 Fortune 500 companies now have renewable energy procurement goals, with 23 of those companies setting 100 percent renewable energy targets.

Particularly remarkable is that the majority of those companies set 100 percent targets in just the past three years, reminding us that corporate demand for renewable energy is a growing trend – currently most prevalent in the Information Technology sector but expanding rapidly to other sectors such as Consumer Goods.

In fact, more than 6,700 megawatts (MW) of wind power had been procured through the end of 2016 by corporate and other non-utility purchasers through power purchase agreements (PPA), direct ownership, or green power purchase agreements.

To put it simply, companies know that wind energy is a smart investment, and theychoose wind power more than any other source to meet their renewable energy needs. And with costs falling by two-thirds over the past seven years and more than 18,700 MWof wind power capacity coming online in the near term, wind power stands ready to meet growing corporate demand.

Renewables Break Records as Wind and Solar Come Online


Last year saw global renewable energy generation capacity increase by 161 gigawatts (GW), the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, said on Thursday.

IRENA said that, by the end of 2016, the planet’s renewable energy capacity had hit an estimated 2,006 GW.  It added that its data showed renewable energy capacity grew by 8.7 percent, with 71 GW of new solar energy leading the way. Wind energy grew by 51 GW, hydropower increased by 30 GW and bioenergy 9 GW.

“We are witnessing an energy transformation taking hold around the world, and this is reflected in another year of record breaking additions in new renewable energy capacity,” IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin said in a statement.

“This growth in deployment emphasizes the increasingly strong business case for renewables which also have multiple socio-economic benefits in terms of fueling economic growth, creating jobs and improving human welfare and the environment,” Amin added.

Accelerating this momentum would need extra investment “in order to move decisively towards decarbonising the energy sector and meet climate objectives,” he went on to say.

IRENA’s announcement came on the same day the U.K. government released energy statistics which showed that renewable electricity generation in 2016 was 82.8 terawatt hours, down one per cent compared to 2015.

In addition, the government said that renewables’ share of electricity generation fell to 24.4 percent in 2016, a decrease of 0.2 percentage points compared to the previous year. Capacity for renewable energy at the end of 2016 was 34.7 GW, representing an increase of 13.7 percent.

Companies have Big Plans to Make More Products Using Renewables




We’ve seen the good news that Fortune 500 companies like General Motors, Facebook, The Home Depot, and now Apple are making smart investments to procure wind energy, realizing long-term price stability and cutting pollution at the same time.

But how many more companies are in line to invest?

A new report by WWF, Ceres, Calvert Research & Management and CDP shows how more and more Fortune 500 companies are setting renewable energy targets, increasing the number of corporate purchasers ready to procure stably priced and reliable wind energy.

In total the report reveals that 48 percent of all Fortune 500 companies now have targets in place for either renewable energy procurement, carbon pollution reductions, or energy efficiency– a steady increase over the 43 percent reported in 2014.

These goals save America’s companies billions of dollars. In 2016 alone, emissions-saving projects translated to a combined $3.7 billion in savings for these companies.

Looking closer, 53 Fortune 500 companies now have renewable energy procurement goals, with 23 of those companies setting 100 percent renewable energy targets.

Particularly remarkable is that the majority of those companies set 100 percent targets in just the past three years, reminding us that corporate demand for renewable energy is a growing trend – currently most prevalent in the Information Technology sector but expanding rapidly to other sectors such as Consumer Goods.

Read the full article, here. 

Wind Energy Offers Cleaner Air and Saves Water Resources



We celebrate Earth Day this month, which makes it an opportune time to take a look at the many benefits wind energy provides as a pollution-free energy resource.

Wind power creates a healthier future — it contributes to cleaner air and better health for Americans as a pollution-free electricity source.

U.S. wind farms cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 76,000 metric tons a year and nitrogen oxide emissions by 106,000 metric tons.

That literally keeps Americans out of the hospital, because these pollutants create smog that can trigger asthma attacks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 24.6 million Americans suffer from asthma, including 6.2 million children. When we invest in more wind power, we are investing in the health of our fellow Americans.

According to the Department of Energy’s Wind Vision report, by 2050, wind’s air pollution reductions will save $108 billion in public health costs and prevent 21,700 premature deaths.

Wind energy contrasts starkly from other sources of electricity generation, which also emit volatile organic compounds and heavy metals. These pollutants result in serious health effects, including lung cancer, asthma, increased heart disease, and other carcinogenic and neurotoxic effects.

The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2016 report found that more than half of all Americans live in counties where they face exposure to unhealthy levels of air pollutants. However, the report states that the best progress made in 2016 centered on reducing the ozone and year-round particle pollution thanks to cleaner energy and cleaner vehicles.

Wind doesn’t just create clean air; it also saves billions of gallons of water every year.

Wind uses virtually no water to generate electricity, saving 35 billion gallons a year by replacing other thirsty electricity sources.

Wind power saves each American about 120 gallons of water each year, which is equivalent to 285 billion bottles. It does that because wind needs no water for cooling purposes to generate electricity, unlike other sources of generation. This means no warm water gets dumped into nearby lakes or rivers, causing harm to fish and other wildlife.

As the nation faces areas of drought, these savings become even more important. Farmers in particular have benefited from wind energy’s water savings. As an industry that depends on water availability for crops, animals and personal uses, farmers understand how big an impact these savings have.

America’s thermal power plants withdrew between 22 and 62 trillion gallons of freshwater in 2008, when wind energy only contributed about 1.5 percent of the U.S. electricity generation. This freshwater comes from the same rivers, lakes, streams and aquifers that we all rely on.

In 2016, wind energy supplied over 5.5 percent of U.S. electricity generation, with enough installed to power 24 million homes. By 2050, the Department of Energy’s Wind Vision Report says wind energy could realistically provide 35 percent of U.S. electricity, creating a 23 percent reduction in water consumed to generate electricity.

Wind energy is conserving tremendous amounts of freshwater that Americans and our wildlife need. This is just one way wind works for America — by benefiting the whole country by saving water and contributing to cleaner air. We look forward to enjoying the benefits of cleaner air and more water savings as wind power continues to grow.

Isak Kvam is a communications and policy associate at Wind on the Wires.

11 Reasons to Celebrate Wind Energy’s Record Year in 2016


WRITTEN BY:  John Hensley

AWEA released its U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, Year Ending 2016 today, which showcases strong, steady growth throughout the year.

Wind power became the largest source of renewable generating capacity and supplied record amounts of wind energy to many parts of the country. Strong wind project construction, a growing manufacturing sector and the increasing need for wind turbine technicians and operators allowed the industry to add jobs at a rate nine times faster than the overall job market, as wind employment grew to a record 102,500.

Technology advances resulted in more productive turbines, with recent generations achieving average capacity factors more than 40 percent, all while costs continued to fall. And the industry saw the installation of the country’s first offshore wind project off the coast of Rhode Island.

Here are the top 11 wind industry trends in 2016:

1. Record Wind Jobs

For the first time in history, there are more than 100,000 Americans employed in the U.S. wind energy industry. Strong wind construction activity throughout the year, combined with a strengthening wind manufacturing sector and growing need for personnel to operate and maintain more than 52,000 wind turbines, allowed the industry to add nearly 15,000 full-time equivalent jobs in 2016.

That brings total U.S. wind industry jobs to 102,500. Impressively, the U.S. wind industry added jobs more than nine times faster than the overall economy. Strong wind project installation, construction, and development activity, combined with strong wind-related manufacturing activity, and over 52,000 wind turbines to operate and maintain, led wind jobs to grow 16.5 percent. That’s compared to 1.8 percent for the overall U.S. job market.

2. Wind #1 Source of Renewable Generating Capacity

Wind energy passed hydroelectric power to become the number one source of renewablegenerating capacity in 2016. With federal policy stability secured, the U.S. wind industry installed 8,203 megawatts (MW) in 2016 and the industry now has 82,143 MW installed overall, enough wind power for the equivalent of 24 million American homes.

3. Generation Records Set

Wind energy delivered more than 30 percent of the electricity produced in Iowa and South Dakota in 2016. Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota generated more than 20 percent of their electricity from wind, while 20 states now produce more than five percent of their electricity from wind energy. ERCOT, the main grid operator for most of Texas, and SPP, which operates across parts of 14 states, competed for new wind power penetration records throughout 2016, both topping 50 percent wind energy on several occasions.

4. U.S. Manufacturing Sector Growth

Wind energy continues to fuel the domestic manufacturing sector, with more than 500 factoriesacross 41 states producing components for the U.S. wind industry in 2016. Domestic wind-related manufacturing jobs grew 17 percent to more than 25,000 as three new factories began supplying the wind industry and five plants expanded production.

5. Technology Boosts Productivity

Technological advances allow wind turbines to reach stronger, steadier winds, and more sophisticated control systems are increasing the amount of electricity modern wind turbines generate. Wind turbines built in 2014 and 2015 achieved capacity factors more than 40 percent during 2016. At the same time, the cost of wind energy dropped more than 66 percent between 2009 and 2016.

6. Corporations and Utilities Want Wind

Fortune 500 companies, electric utilities and others signed 47 power purchase agreements totaling more than 4,000 MW during 2016. In doing so, they cited the declining costs and stable price of wind power as factors. Utilities submitted Integrated Resource Plans detailing at least 14,000 MW in wind power additions in the past two years.

7. Record Wind Enters Queue

67 gigawatts of newly proposed wind projects were added to interconnection queues in 2016, the largest since the addition of 67.3 GW in 2009. This brings total wind capacity in the queues to 136.8 GW, the highest level in five years.

8. Improving the Transmission Grid

Transmission expansion to serve wind continues, particularly in MISO and SPP. A number of proposed interregional Direct Current transmission lines have now also cleared final permitting hurdles. In total, transmission projects that could support the delivery of nearly 52,000 MW of wind energy over the next five years are currently under development, though not all are likely to be built.

9. Wind Benefits Every State

More than 74 percent of U.S. congressional districts have operational wind energy projects or active wind-related manufacturing facilities, including 77 percent of Republican districts and 69 percent of Democratic districts. The industry invested more than $14.1 billion in new wind projects and supported 102,500 jobs across all 50 states.

10. Wind Reduces Emissions and Saves Water
Operational wind projects avoided 393 million pounds of sulfur dioxide and 243 million pounds of nitrogen oxide. These pollutants create smog and trigger asthma attacks, so reducing them saved $7.4 billion in public health costs last year. Meanwhile, operating wind projects avoided the consumption of 87 billion gallons of water, equivalent to 266 gallons per person in the U.S.
11. Offshore Wind Debut
The first offshore wind project in the U.S. began operating in late 2016. The five turbine, 30 MW Block Island wind farm is located three miles off the coast of Rhode Island, near Block Island.

Wind Energy is a Strong Investment in Rural America

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON:  American Wind Energy Association

WRITTEN BY: Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association

This is how you invest in rural America today and tomorrow 

Moving up the economic ladder can be much more difficult in rural America than in other places.That was the key finding from a recent report on the differences between urban and less-populated parts of the county. As the study’s authors stated in their introduction, “Place matters.” There are any number of reasons why this might be the case. Rural areas generally offer fewer job opportunities, and small tax bases may struggle to fund schools. Incomes can falter as a result.

However, researchers at the bipartisan Economic Innovation Group found an important exception: rural communities that are comparatively well-off are able to provide their children with the very best springboard to enhanced economic prospects, it turns out.

“Prosperous rural areas can provide a significantly greater boost to children than even prosperous urban areas, suggesting that the quintessential engine of economic mobility may not be the urban melting pots of Horatio Alger-style myth, but rather the small town communities of the Upper Midwest,” their report explains.

Here is where wind power has a role to play.

Because 99 percent of wind farms are built in rural areas, they bring economic development into these regions on a nearly unmatched scale. Wind has driven over $140 billion of investment over the past decade, and another $85 billion of economic activity is on the way in just the next four years.

Many of the country’s 100,000-strong wind energy jobs benefit rural communities, with more coming. By the end of President Trump’s first term, the U.S. could have 248,000 wind-related jobs, in wind companies, the supply chain, and the communities surrounding wind farms and factories.

Much of this goes right to the rural areas that need it most.

Because wind farms are often the biggest taxpayers in a county, they swell local coffers. That new revenue helps pay teacher salaries, buy new school computers, build classrooms, and expand educational opportunities in other ways.

Consider the Lincolnview School District, in the rural northwestern corner of Ohio. After a wind farm was built several years ago, the school district was able to provide every student from grades K through 12 with a new laptop — and fund the repair and replacement program, too. Lincolnview offers advanced classes in biomedical and pre-engineering it would not have been able to fund before the wind farm.

Or take Lowville, a rural town in upstate New York. The Lowville school district funded new Advanced Placement classes, and it built new athletic fields using funds from a nearby wind farm. In fact, researchers from Syracuse University are currently studying Lowville schools because their students perform significantly better on standardized tests than students from similarly income-constrained areas.

“This opportunity with wind, it’s incredible to see. It’s been the number one economic development we’ve ever had,” says Jeff Snyder, Lincolnview school district superintendent. “I don’t know any better way to spend money than on kids and our future.”

These resources open opportunities for economic mobility.

While the researchers point to the Upper Midwest in their report as an example of prosperous rural areas, we in the wind industry also look to the area because it showcases wind power’s potential.

I would like to think the two are related.

Iowa sits right in the middle of that Upper Midwest region, and no state has better taken advantage of its God-given wind resource. Today wind supplies over 35 percent of the state’s electricity, and the resulting job creation and economic development is impressive.

Over 8,000 Iowans now have wind-related jobs, many of them at 11 in-state factories that build wind turbines and parts. Iowa’s farmers get over $20 million a year in lease payments for hosting turbines. That’s income they can count on rain or shine. And wind farm construction has brought $11.8 billion of investment into the state’s economy, including $1 billion investments from both MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy.

More is on the way. Iowa could have over 17,000 wind-related jobs and another $9 billion of additional economic activity from wind power by 2020.

That is how you bring economic development into rural America, and offer our children futures full of opportunity.

Wind energy is setting records in the U.S. and around the world



Wind power had a big year in 2016 — but it risks an unpredictable future in the face of uncertain policy in the United States and in Europe.

In the United States, wind power achieved its second strongest quarter ever, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), surpassing hydropower to become the largest source of renewable electricity capacity in the United States. Overall, wind capacity now ranks fourth in the United States, behind coal, natural gas, and nuclear.

The wind sector also added 88,000 new jobs to the U.S. economy in 2015 — more than three times the 28,000 temporary construction jobs that the Trump administration claims would be created by constructing the Keystone XL pipeline (though reports suggest Trump’s estimate is likely grossly inflated). Wind turbine technician is currently the fastest growing job in the United States, and both wind and solar jobs are currently growing at rates faster than the U.S. economy, according to a report released last month by the Environmental Defense Fund. In 2016, for the first time, the number of U.S. jobs in renewable energy surpassed the number of jobs in oil drilling.

Capacity, while an important metric, is defined as the total amount of output a particular electricity generator can produce at a specific time, under specific conditions. Generation is the actual amount of electricity that is produced. And while renewables account for a large percentage of recently installed capacity, solar and wind still account for a small portion of total U.S. generation — 4.7 percent for wind and 0.6 percent for solar.

Wind also had a big year in Europe, with wind accounting for more than half of all new installed capacity for the first time ever. Renewable energy writ large accounted for nearly 90 percent of new power added in Europe last year, with 21.1 gigawatts of the total 24.5 new gigawatts installed coming from wind or solar, plus more controversial renewable technologies like biomass and hydropower. That new renewable capacity helped push wind past coal to become Europe’s second largest form of power capacity, though coal still is used to meet more of the continents electricity demand.

Germany led the charge in installing new wind capacity, installing nearly 44 percent of the total wind capacity installed in Europe in 2016. France installed the second most wind capacity, with the Netherlands and the United Kingdom ranking third and fourth, respectively.

But growth of wind and renewables faces an uncertain future, as fossil fuel-friendly politicians in the United States and Europe look to curtail policies aimed at bolstering renewable growth. In the United States, Trump has pledged an “America first” energy plan that involves extracting coal, natural gas, and oil from federal lands and offshore drilling sites, and has criticized wind for being too expensive and killing “all of the birds.” (In reality, energy costs are at a record low in the United States, thanks in part to the adoption of wind and solar technologies.) Despite his distaste for wind power, however, Trump did tell voters in Iowa during the campaign that he supported subsidies for wind, like the production tax credit.

The U.S. Congress agreed to extend both the production tax credit and the investment tax credit, meant for solar power, in 2015, and because renewable energy like solar and wind is big in both Republican and Democratic-controlled states, its often looked at as a bipartisan issue. Still, it’s unclear how much support these industries can expect from the Trump administration, whose policies focus on fuels like coal and oil much more than renewables.

In Europe, only seven of the European Union’s 28 member countries have clear plans to continue wind power growth through 2020, Giles Dickson, chief executive of WindEurope, told the Guardian.

“We today see less political and policy ambition for renewables than we did five or even three years ago, across the member states,” Dickson said.

In the United Kingdom, for instance, recent policies have made it more difficult to develop onshore wind by requiring that the land be identified as suitable for wind development in a Local or Neighborhood Plan. Most local plans were developed before this was required, however, meaning that many local plans don’t include wind energy — making it difficult to install more wind capacity.

Wind Power Grows America’s Economy And Keeps Our Air Clean

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON:  Total Health Magazine 

WRITTEN BY: Hannah Hunt 

In todays world, finding common ground is not always an easy task. But here’s one thing all Americans can agree on: we want to have clean air and a healthy economy. Because of technologies like wind energy, we don’t have to choose one over the other.

Growing wind power powers American job creation and economic development, while over time increasing U.S. energy independence by using a homegrown, emission-free electricity source.

America’s 100,000—strong wind power workforce

Over 100,000 Americans are employed by the wind industry today, across all 50 states. Many of these are manufacturing positions at the nation’s more than 500 factories that build the blades, towers, and other parts that go into wind turbines. Over 25,000 of these U.S. workers have well-paying jobs at wind manufacturing facilities, breathing new life into an economic sector that has struggled for decades.

“I’ve got very strong high moral and Christian values, and I think they line up very well with this kind of energy,” says Blake Kasper, a Quality Supervisor at Broadwind Energy in Abilene, Texas, where he helps build wind turbine towers. “There’s just so much work, orders keep pumping in. The opportunities are limitless.”

Importantly, many of these new manufacturing jobs are found across the Rust Belt, hiring workers where they’re needed the most. Ohio leads the way with 62 wind factories, while Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan boast 26 each.

And these jobs will continue growing. Wind manufacturing jobs will grow to 33,000 by the end of President Trump’s first term, according to recent analysis from Navigant consulting. Because 99 percent of wind farms are built in rural areas, many of the jobs that wind creates belong to those living in our country’s agricultural areas. This offers new career opportunities in communities where those can be scarce.

For example, a wind turbine technician is by far America’s fastest growing job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The profession is projected to grow by 108 percent over the next decade, far outpacing the next job on the list, occupational therapy assistant, only increasing by 42 percent. With nearly all of the country’s 52,000, and counting, wind turbines in rural areas, there is strong demand for more technicians to keep them running smoothly.

The U.S. wind industry also proudly offers good career opportunities to the men and women who serve our country— veterans find wind energy jobs at a rate 50 percent higher than the average industry.

This massive U.S. job creation will not stop anytime soon. By 2020, there could by 248,000 wind-related jobs according to Navigant Consulting.

Investing in rural America

You don’t need to have a wind job to realize the economic benefits of wind power, however. Wind farms bring new resources into rural areas in a nearly unmatched scale.

Nearly all of the country’s wind projects are built on private land, which means farmers and ranchers get lease payments in exchange for hosting wind turbines. These payments totaled $245 million in 2016 alone, and approximately $175 million of that total went to landowners in low-income counties. That number will keep increasing as the U.S. wind industry continues to grow.

Lease payments offer income farmers and ranchers can count on when commodity prices fluctuate or bad weather hurts the harvest. For many families, these payments can make the difference between continuing a multi-generation tradition and ending a way of life. That’s why some call wind energy their “drought-proof cash crop.”

However, entire communities benefit from these projects, not just wind farm landlords.

Wind farms are often a county’s largest taxpayers, so they add substantial revenue to the local budget. This income helps pay teacher salaries, fix roads and buy new ambulances. Navigant projects new wind projects will create $8 billion of added sales, income and property tax payments over just the next four years, on top of payments coming from projects that already exist. In all, wind will drive another $85 billion of economic activity between now and 2020.

“Wind energy, the fastest-growing source of electricity in the U.S., is transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the federal government gave land to homesteaders 150 years ago,” the Omaha World-Herald recently reported.

Clean air, healthy communities

Wind energy provides all of these economic benefits while also playing a major role in creating cleaner air.

By reducing harmful air pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that cause smog and trigger asthma attacks, wind created $7.3 billion in public health savings in 2015 alone. By 2050, wind could prevent a total of 22,000 premature deaths and save $108 billion in public health costs by reducing air pollution, according to the Department of Energy.

“Unhealthy air is hazardous to our families and even can threaten life itself,” according to the American Lung Association’s (ALA) Healthy Air Campaign. That is why the ALA has adopted as one of its goals the transition to a clean energy future, “to protect all people from the harm of air pollution.” Wind’s clean air role should grow in the years to come.

Today, the U.S. has enough installed wind capacity to power 24 million homes, and it is on track to supply 10 percent of the country’s electricity by 2020. Substantial job creation, billions of dollars of economic investment and clearer air—American wind power helps us create the healthy economy and environment we all want.

Read the full article here.