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Wind Energy in the U.S.

Wind energy is on the rise.  Between 2000 and 2020, the total electricity generated from wind in the US increased from 6 billion kWh to 338 billion kWh.1  Wind energy is predicted to save “consumers $280 billion by 2050”2 and it’s also affordable with wind generation agreements usually offering 20-year fixed pricing.  Wind energy also reduces emissions.  In 2013, 250,000 metric tons of air pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter was avoided.2  In 2019, “Wind energy avoided 198 million metric tons of CO2”3 and by 2050, wind energy will avoid 2.3 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.2  

Wind Turbines in California 
PHOTO FROM UNSPLASH/CAMERON VENTI

First, Some History 

Following the 1973 Oil Crisis*, the US saw a decrease in oil consumption.  Just before the crisis, the US was consuming 834 million tons of oil per year and by 1982, the US was consuming 695 million tons.4   The policies and regulations concerning fossil fuel production and consumption, like CAFE  (the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program), did not solve the crisis.  While CAFE did decrease the average consumed liters of fuel per 100 kilometers for the average US car from 18 to 12 between 1975 and 1985, there has been a standstill since then as fuel standards have not changed.4  The crisis gave way to the rise of renewable energy in the US with “increased energy research and development budgets.”4  The frontrunner of the states was California.  

California’s state government had already passed some environmental impact laws to evaluate construction projects/activities (the 1970 California Environmental Quality Act) before the 1973 Oil Crisis.4  By 1975 the California Energy Commission (CEC) was created to help wean California off fossil fuels.4  The CEC created a wind energy program in 1976 as Governor Jerry Brown was looking for cheap energy plus increased energy production all while not having to reduce energy consumption.4  Keeping in mind, people were wary of nuclear energy since the Three Mile Island incident* and the second oil crisis came up in 1979, so wind energy was looking like a good alternative.4  Governor Brown promoted small-scale electricity development across the state with tax incentives, leading to a wind energy boom.  In the six years from 1980 to 1986, California’s wind energy capacity went from 0MW (megawatts) to 1,235MW.4  

“…virtually all wind energy capacity in the United States was found within California – a state of affairs that continue into the late 1990s (Swain 2001).” 4 

*The 1973 Oil Crisis happened when OPEC (the organization formed by the oil-producing countries),5 agreed to stop exporting oil to the United States in 1973 after Nixon took the US off the gold standard in 1971.6  OPEC’s embargo ended in 1974, but prices had already raised from $2.90 a barrel to $11.65 a barrel and the ordeal was named the cause of the 1973-1975 recession.6 

*The Three Mile Island accident was when the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in  Pennsylvania had a partial meltdown in 1979.  It was “the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history.”7  

Today’s Wind Frontrunners

Wind turbines made up 8.4% of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation in 2020.1  Today, Texas has the largest wind energy capacity in the US at 24,899MW;  Iowa at 8,422MW, Oklahoma at 8,072MW, and Kansas at 5,653MW8 make up more than half of US wind electricity generation.9 

“In the United States, producers generated 275 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity from wind power in 2018. Of that, more than half came from just four states: Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Kansas. Five other states—California, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Colorado—provided another 20% of total wind generation in the country.” 9

In the next 10 years, Texas will still be the frontrunner and is expected to invest $16 billion on 26 total projects.10  Massachusetts is up next with an expected $15 billion and 6 new projects.  Following the same order, New York: $11 billion and 18 new projects; Wyoming, $9 billion and 10 new projects; New Mexico, $6 billion and 8 new projects.10

[Check out: https://www.energy.gov/maps/map-projected-growth-wind-industry-now-until-2050  for a Projected Growth of the Wind Industry From Now Until 2050 Map]

The Growing Industry 

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Vision Report, wind energy “has the potential to support over 600,000 jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and supporting services by 2050.”2  The wind industry in the US provided 120,000+ jobs across the country in 2019.3  

Wind turbine service technician is the fastest-growing occupation with their employment expected to increase 61% from 2019 to 2029.11  The Wind Vision Report, also finds that wind energy deployment will increase local community revenues as they would be able to collect new tax revenue from land lease payments and property taxes – the annual total by 2050 would be $3.2 billion.2

“The Wind Vision Report shows that wind can be a viable source of renewable electricity in all 50 states by 2050.” 2

2021 Upcoming Wind Projects

Texas has two upcoming onshore projects, the Aviator Wind Project and Goodnight Wind Energy Project.  The Aviator project will use 191 units of GE’s 2MW onshore platform of wind turbines in its wind farm, creating 525MW.12  This project will create about 300 short-term construction jobs and nine long-term operations jobs.10  The second Texas project is the Goodnight Wind Energy Project which will have a 500MW capacity and the power to generate electricity for 500,000+ Texan homes.13  The Goodnight Project is expected to create an additional $50 million in tax revenue for the county.13  This project will create 85 construction jobs and 15+ permanent jobs.10  

Oklahoma’s 999MW Traverse Wind Energy Center onshore wind farm will be in three counties ( Custer, Blaine, and Kingfisher).14  The Traverse project is one of three wind facilities/farms being developed by Invenergy for American Electric Power; together the three make up the North Central Wind Energy Facilities “with a total capacity of 1.485GW.”14  This project will creator enough energy to power 300,000 homes, and create 200-350 construction jobs and 32 permanent operational jobs.10  

The Alle-Catt Wind Farm in Wyoming will use 116 turbines and be constructed over 30,000 acres of private land.15  Once finished in 2022, this onshore project will be able to power 134,000 homes annually15 and create 11-13 permanent jobs.10  

Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, United Kingdom
PHOTO FROM UNSPLASH/NICHOLAS DOHERTY

The Vineyard Wind I project will be “the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind energy project over 15 miles off the coast of Massachusetts.”16  With 84 offshore wind turbines, the Vineyard project will have an installed capacity of 800MW10 and the energy to power 400,000+ homes and businesses in Massachusetts.16  It will also reduce 1.6 million tons of carbon emissions annually.16

“an investment of over $3bn, it is the biggest wind farm currently under development in the USA.” 10

Want to learn more?

Check out: https://www.energy.gov/maps/map-projected-growth-wind-industry-now-until-2050  for a Projected Growth of the Wind Industry From Now Until 2050 Map 

Check out: https://www.energy.gov/maps/how-does-wind-turbine-work to learn how wind turbines work. 

Sources

  1. “U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis.” Electricity Generation from Wind – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), www.eia.gov/energyexplained/wind/electricity-generation-from-wind.php#:~:text=Electricity%20generation%20with%20wind&text=Total%20annual%20U.S.%20electricity%20generation,U.S.%20utility%2Dscale%20electricity%20generation.
  1. “Wind Vision.” Energy.gov, www.energy.gov/eere/wind/wind-vision.
  1. Acp. “Wind Power Facts and Statistics.” ACP, 18 May 2021, https://cleanpower.org/facts/wind-power/.  
  1. “Chapter 4: External Shocks .” Renewables: the Politics of a Global Energy Transition, by Aklin Michaël and Johannes Urpelainen, The MIT Press, 2018, pp. 100–103.
  1. Amadeo, Kimberly. “3 Top Goals of OPEC.” The Balance, 30 May 2021, www.thebalance.com/what-is-opec-its-members-and-history-3305872
  1. Amadeo, Kimberly. “The Truth About the 1973 Arab Oil Crisis.” The Balance, 31 Aug. 2020, www.thebalance.com/opec-oil-embargo-causes-and-effects-of-the-crisis-3305806.  
  1. Backgrounder On The Three Mile Island Accident, U.S. NRC, www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/3mile-isle.html
  1. Unwin, Jack. “Top Ten US States by Wind Energy Capacity.” Power Technology, www.power-technology.com/features/us-wind-energy-by-state/.
  1. “U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis.” Four States Account for More than Half of U.S. Wind Electricity Generation – Today in Energy – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=39772.
  1. Terra, Nana. “5 US Wind Energy Projects Starting in 2021.” Airswift Is The Leading Workforce Solutions Provider Globally, www.airswift.com/blog/wind-energy-projects-usa.
  1. “Wind Turbine Technicians: Occupational Outlook Handbook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 9 Apr. 2021, www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/wind-turbine-technicians.htm.
  1. “Aviator Onshore Wind Farm Project, Coke Country, USA.” NS Energy, www.nsenergybusiness.com/projects/aviator-onshore-wind-farm-project/.
  1. “FGE Goodnight I.” FGE Power, http://fgepower.com/portfolio/fge-goodnight-i/
  1. “Invenergy Secures Financing for 999MW Wind Farm in Oklahoma, US.” Power Technology, www.power-technology.com/news/invenergy-secures-construction-financing-traverse-wind-energy-center-oklahoma-us/
  1. Petrova, Veselina. “Invenergy Wins Siting Permit for 340-MW Wind Farm in NY.” Renewablesnow.com, https://renewablesnow.com/news/invenergy-wins-siting-permit-for-340-mw-wind-farm-in-ny-701771/
  1. “Vineyard Wind 1.” Vineyard Wind, www.vineyardwind.com/vineyard-wind-1