Capital investment to date in Washington energy produced from wind, solar, geothermal and biomass has exceeded $7.9 billion, according to data released by Renewable Northwest Project, a regional nonprofit advocacy group.
‘This is a pivotal time for economic recovery and environmental protection, and Washington's renewable energy resources are delivering the solutions we need,’ said Rachel Shimshak, executive director at Renewable Northwest Project, in a statement.
However, the Washington state legislature is considering changes to the renewable energy standard in the state's voter-approved clean energy law, Initiative 937 (I-937). Passed in 2006, I-937 advanced Washington's role as a national renewable energy leader, attracting renewable industry businesses and capital investments to the state, according to the group.
The group says the future of I-937 is uncertain, just as uncertainty surrounds regional transmission policies and federal renewable energy policies, such as the production tax credit, which will expire unless extended.
U.S.-based manufacturers and their employees are benefiting from the renewable energy investments in Washington. The Katana-Summit wind turbine component manufacturing facility in Ephrata employs 150 people. The solar photovoltaic manufacturing sector has brought more than $1 billion in capital investment to the state since 2006 and employs more than 720 full-time workers.
Despite the lagging economy, rapid growth of renewable energy projects in the Northwest helped the Port of Vancouver to retain jobs during the recession, due largely to logistics handling for wind energy parts. The port handled more than 3,300 individual wind turbine parts in 2011, and wind energy business accounts for a significant amount of the port's annual marine revenues.
In 2011, Washington's installed wind capacity grew 22% to 2,573 MW.
‘Renewable energy resources – paired with optimal efficiency – offer the best choice for healthy economies, communities and the environment,’ said Shimshak. ‘We are proud of the progress that Washington has achieved and urge state leaders, federal policymakers and citizens to expand Washington's clean energy leadership and the benefits it brings to our region.’