In 2013, the U.S. wind power fleet reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the power sector by 96 million metric tons, or 4.4%, the equivalent of taking 16.9 million cars off the road, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
The group adds that, at the end of 2013, there were over 12 GW of wind energy under construction, which will eventually help to make an even bigger dent in emissions. On average, AWEA says wind generation avoids roughly 0.6 metric tons (1,300 pounds) of CO2 for every megawatt-hour of wind generation. When all 12 GW have completed construction, the group expects operational wind projects in the U.S. will reduce power section emissions by a total of 117 million tons annually, or over 5.3% of the sector's emissions.
"Wind energy is leading the U.S. to a low-carbon future," says Emily Williams, senior policy analyst for AWEA. "Not only is wind energy reliable and affordable, but it's providing sustained emissions reductions in the sector that contributes the most to climate change: the power sector."
AWEA also points to analyses by independent grid operators that confirm increasing wind energy could significantly reduce emissions.
For example, a 2014 study for Mid-Atlantic grid operator PJM found that a scenario of 20% wind energy would reduce the region's CO2 emissions by 80 million tons, or 18%, while reducing the cost of producing electricity by more than $9 billion.
Furthermore, AWEA says a 2013 study covering the Western region of the U.S. found that producing 33% of the region's electricity from wind and solar energy would reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 34%.