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U.S. wind power remains on track to supply 10 percent of the country's electricity by 2020.

New Data: Wind Powers 5.5 Percent of U.S. Grid


All of the new wind farms built over the past few years are making an impact: new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration finds the country generated more than 5.5 percent of its electricity using wind in 2016.

That comes on the heels of a recent announcement that wind is now the country’s largest source of installed renewable generating capacity. All told, the U.S. now has enough wind to power 24 million American homes.

Even more impressive results at the state level

At the state level is where things get really exciting. Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Oklahoma all generated at least 20 percent of their electricity with wind last year. Overall, wind supplies at least 10 percent of the electricity in 14 states.

Most impressive among those rising up the wind energy chart is New Mexico, which increased its total annual wind generation by 73 percent over 2015 levels. Wind reliably supplies just under 11 percent of the state’s electricity.

Growing wind creates a better tomorrow

All of this growth boosts rural American economies. Wind has attracted over $140 billion into the U.S. economy over the last decade, and billions more are on the way. It also offers farmers and ranchers a new cash crop—these landowners are paid $245 million every year for hosting wind turbines.

“Wind power is cheap, clean and infinite, and it saves Oklahomans hundreds of dollars annually on their utility bills,” said Brad Raven, District One Commissioner for Beaver County Oklahoma. “When you consider that landowners receive millions in annual royalties from wind projects, you have an energy sector that is literally saving rural Oklahoma.”

More progress is possible

Wind remains on track to supply 10 percent of the country’s electricity by 2020, and grid operators increasingly find integrating more of it doesn’t pose a problem. The Southwest Power Pool recently set a new record, with wind exceeding 50 percent grid penetration last month. And much more can be done:

“Ten years ago we thought hitting even a 25 percent wind-penetration level would be extremely challenging, and any more than that would pose serious threats to reliability,” said Bruce Rew, Southwest Power Pool’s vice president of operations. “Now we have the ability to reliably manage greater than 50 percent. It’s not even our ceiling.”

Elsewhere, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found 30 percent renewable energy integration was possible in the Eastern Interconnection, the grid serving most of the Eastern U.S., without any further technological advances necessary.

For more information on how wind is reliably and affordably helping the U.S. move toward energy independence, check out this video:

Wind turbines are soaring to record sizes. The average rotor diameter of turbines installed in 2015 grew to 102 meters, up 113 percent since 1998–1999. | National Renewable Energy Laboratory photo.

Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Wind Power


This article is part of the Energy.gov series highlighting the “Top Things You Didn’t Know About…” series. Find the rest here.

10. Human civilizations have harnessed wind power for thousands of years. Early forms of windmills used wind to crush grain or pump water. Now, modern wind turbines use the wind to create electricity. Learn how a wind turbine works.

9. Today’s wind turbines are much more complicated machines than the traditional prairie windmill. A wind turbine has as many as 8,000 different components.

8. Wind turbines are big. Wind turbine blades average over 160 feet long, and turbine towers average over 260 feet tall — about the height of the Statue of Liberty.

7. Higher wind speeds mean more electricity, and wind turbines are getting taller to reach higher heights above ground level where it’s even windier. See the Energy Department’s wind resource maps to find average wind speeds in your state or hometown and learn more about how taller wind turbines can expand developable areas for wind energy production in the Energy Department’s 2015 Enabling Wind Power Nationwide report.

6. Most of the components of wind turbines installed in the United States are manufactured here. There are 500 wind-related manufacturing facilities located across 43 states, and the U.S. wind industry currently employs more than 100,000 people.

5. Offshore wind represents a major opportunity to provide power to highly populated coastal cities. See what the Energy Department is doing to develop offshore wind in the United States.

4. The United States generates more wind energy than any other country, and wind represented the largest source of all newly installed U.S. electricity generation capacity in 2015.

3. The United States’ wind power capacity surpassed 82 gigawatts at the end of 2016, making it the largest renewable generation capacity in the nation. That’s enough electricity to power more than 20 million homes annually — more than the total number of homes in Alaska, California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont combined.

2. Wind energy is affordable. Wind prices for power contracts signed in 2015 and levelized wind prices (the price the utility pays to buy power from a wind farm) are as low as 2 cents per kilowatt-hour in some areas of the country. These rock-bottom prices are recorded by the Energy Department’s annual Wind Technologies Market Report.

1. By 2050, the United States has the potential to create 600,000 jobs, save consumers $149 billion, and save 260 billion gallons of water by continuing to increase the amount of wind energy that powers our homes, schools and businesses. In 2015, the Energy Department released Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States, which quantifies the economic, social, and environmental benefits of a robust wind energy future through 2050.


Fact Check: The Electricity Grid Relies on Diversified Sources


Over the last two years, a parade of Fortune 500 companies have made substantial wind power purchases, citing low cost and price stability as reasons why wind power is good for their bottom lines. However, some observers have recently misunderstood how these deals work.

The electricity grid is like an ATM

As we’ve previously explained, the electricity grid can be thought of like an ATM. When a corporate buyer of wind energy says it’s buying enough wind to power a data center for example, that doesn’t necessarily mean the electricity generated by a wind farm feeds directly into the data center. Not only is that technologically impossible, grid operators wouldn’t want to design their system that way.

Here’s how we’ve explained the way companies power their data centers, stores and factories with wind energy in the past:

Say you deposit $20 in the ATM near your office. A short time later, you withdraw it from the ATM near your house. You now have a different bill than the one you deposited, but that’s irrelevant; you still have $20.

This aspect of the banking system is analogous to how the electric power system works: it aggregates all sources of electricity supply and demand over a large geographic area, allowing one to add wind energy in one area and use an equivalent amount of electricity somewhere else on the grid.

Just as it would be impossible and pointless to insist that the $20 bill you withdrew in the banking example be the same bill you had deposited earlier, it would be impossible and pointless to require an electricity user to specify the exact power plant they receive energy from.

The integrated nature of the grid allows companies who wish to use wind energy to add it where it is most cost-effective to do so, even if the location of their primary demand center is in an area that is less suitable for wind generation. Many large companies are now using this strategy to increase the percentage of clean energy on the grid, adding supply in one area and using an equivalent amount of electricity in another. Purchasing wind energy in this way allows these companies to meet their sustainability goals while saving money.

And since the cost of wind has fallen by two-thirds over the past seven years, these companies understand that wind is an economic investment, helping them both hit sustainability targets and reduce fuel price risk at the same time.

No source generates electricity all of the time

Other observers have criticized wind power purchase agreements for factories or data centers by noting that wind doesn’t generate electricity all of the time. But the reality is no energy source does. The average wind turbine generates electricity 90 percent of the time, and modern wind farms often have capacity factors exceeding 40 percent. That’s close to coal plants and exceeds some types of natural gas plants. The performance of all power plants can verified using U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) monthly electricity generation data that is provided for individual utility-scale power generators.

That’s why a diversified power system makes sense. Grid operators can balance out the system as supply and demand fluctuate. And unlike conventional plants, which can go offline suddenly and unexpectedly, removing large amounts of power from the grid, changes in wind output are gradual and can be predicted many hours or even days in advance. The truth is all power sources are required to provide the same reliability services, and wind can actually offer some traditional methods of generation cannot.

With enough wind now online to power 24 million homes, wind energy plays an important role in creating a strong and diversified energy mix. That diversification is a key point to keep in mind when evaluating our power system, and it’s one observers all too often misunderstand or ignore.

Check out this video for another look at how wind power helps keep the lights on for American families and businesses.

Got A Clean Energy Jobs Story?

Got A Clean Energy Job Story?


New Campaign Wants You To Spread The Word About Clean Energy Jobs

On the heels of a recent federal report finding that the U.S. now employs more than 3 million workers in the clean energy sector, several groups have launched a new social media campaign that encourages companies and workers to share their employment stories.

Organizers of the #CleanEnergyJobs campaign include Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), the American Council on Renewable Energy, AJW (representing energy service companies), the Alliance to Save Energy, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the Energy Storage Association, and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

According to a recent U.S. Department of Energy report, the clean energy sector supported more than 3 million U.S. jobs in 2016. This includes more than 600,000 in clean power generation (e.g., wind and solar) and 100,000 in advanced grid technologies, including energy storage.

The groups say the goal of their new campaign is to draw attention to the growing renewable energy industries and their good-paying jobs.

“Today, our organizations, member companies and their workers are celebrating all the people who make up the clean energy industries and the positive impact that we have on the U.S. economy,” says Graham Richard, CEO of AEE. “We are excited to bring visibility to our share of the more than 3 million people that work today in advanced energy across our nation.”

Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA, notes that solar in particular added “one in every 50 new jobs in the economy” in 2016. In addition, it now employs roughly 260,000 U.S. workers, she says.

“These jobs pay well, they support local economies and they fuel American innovation,” Hopper adds.

As for wind power, Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, says, “Wind energy has now created over 100,000 jobs that rural and Rust Belt America need, including more than 25,000 manufacturing jobs in 43 states. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind turbine technician is now the fastest-growing job description in America.”

Read the full article here. 

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