By - Jim Vess

Wind industry taking hold in red states in the U.S. heartland in 2017

Energize Weekly, April 25, 2018

The wind industry is having a big impact on red heartland states and rural economies, according to data from the annual report from the industry trade group, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

A total of 7,017 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity was added in the U.S. in 2017, about 13 percent of the global installed capacity for the year, according to AWEA. Wind power supplied 254 million megawatt-hours in 2017, 6.3 percent of the nation’s electricity.

While there are about 54,000 wind turbines with 89,000 MW of capacity operating in 49 states, Guam and Puerto Rico, the big impact in energy generation and economics is in the wind corridor that runs through the middle of the country—from the high plains states to the Midwest to the Southwest.

Five of those states get more than 25 percent of their electricity from wind power: Iowa—36.9 percent, Kansas—36 percent, Oklahoma—31.9 percent, South Dakota—31 percent, and North Dakota—26.8 percent.

Colorado, Minnesota, Texas and Idaho each get 15 percent or more of their electricity from wind farms. Maine, not part of the wind corridor, gets nearly 20 percent of its power from wind.

“Wind projects and wind-related manufacturing facilities are present in 70 percent of U.S. congressional districts, including 75 percent of Republican districts and 62 percent of Democratic districts,” the AWEA report said.

All 10 of the top Congressional districts for installed wind-generating capacity—in Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, Oregon, California, North Dakota and Colorado—are held by Republicans.

Three districts with the most capacity are Texas Congressman Jodey Arrington’s with 7,278 MW, Texas Congressman Mac Thornberry’s with 6,577 MW and the district of Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas with 6,462 MW.

These wind farms are also pouring money into local economies. “The wind industry invests heavily in rural communities, which host 99 percent of wind farms. Ranchers and farmers were paid an estimated $267 million in 2017 to lease private land for wind farm development,” AWEA said.

Utilities signed contracts for more than 3,300 MW and announced plans to own and operate 5,500 MW of wind power capacity in 2017 alone. In total, there are 8,400 MW of wind power being developed, the association said.

In the last decade, U.S. wind power has more than tripled, making it the largest single renewable energy generating capacity.

AWEA highlighted New Mexico, which added wind power at a faster rate than any other state in 2017. The state installed 570 MW last year after installing 1,112 MW in 2016. New Mexico has 1,682 MW of installed wind capacity, ranking it 15th among the states, and there are 1,723 MW under construction or in advanced development.

Wind farms supplied about 13 percent of New Mexico’s electricity in 2017, enough to power more than 442,000 average homes, AWEA said.

Over the past decade, U.S. wind power capacity has more than tripled, and it is the largest source of renewable generating capacity in the country.

Wind represents 25 percent of power capacity added over the last five years. It trailed behind natural gas with 37 percent of the installed capacity and solar with 31 percent of the new capacity.

The biggest customers for wind power in 2017 are utilities, which signed contracts for more than 3,300 MW and announced plans to own and operate another 5,500 MW.

Another growing market is non-utility corporations with their own energy or sustainability plans. In 2017 these companies—including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, IKEA and Walmart—signed 23 contracts for electricity totaling more than 2,000 MW. So far, non-utility companies have procured 9,100 MW of wind energy.

“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,” said Tom Kiernan, AWEA’s CEO, said in a statement.

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