AWEA’s Annual Wind Report: New Records, New Rising Star And Good Things To Come

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After strong growth in 2017, wind power now supplies more than 30% of electricity in four states and more than 10% in 14 states, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) newly released U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report 2017, which shows that the industry now employs a record 105,500 men and women across all 50 states.

AWEA released its report today from the state capitol in New Mexico, a new rising star for wind power. Notably, New Mexico added wind capacity at a faster rate than any other state in 2017, says AWEA.

“You can see the future of American energy here in New Mexico, where our industry grew at a faster rate than any other state last year,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “It’s a place where wind farms and transmission lines are rapidly becoming staples of the economy, creating new jobs and bringing a wave of private investment to rural communities.

“States are where the action is happening for wind with our federal tax credit on an orderly path to phase out by 2019. Individual states’ policy choices and the strength of their infrastructure will play a big role in determining where wind power’s future growth is channeled,” he added.

According to AWEA, wind power generated a record 6.3% of U.S. electricity in 2017, but the impact is even more pronounced at the state level: Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota generated over 30% of their electricity using wind.

The report says operating wind power capacity grew 9% last year. The installation of 7,017 MW of wind in 2017 brings total U.S. installed wind power capacity to 88,973 MW; that’s just under 54,000 wind turbines operating in 41 states, Guam and Puerto Rico – enough installed capacity to power a record 27 million American homes.

New Mexico added 570 MW last year, representing a 51% increase over the 1,112 MW installed at the end of 2016. Furthermore, wind farms supplied over 13% of the state’s electricity generation last year, enough to power over 422,000 average homes. New Mexico is now ranked 15th in the nation with 1,682 MW of installed capacity, and a wave of new wind investment will soon advance the state’s leadership, predicts AWEA.

“I’m proud that New Mexico’s wind power capacity grew at a faster rate than any other state and generated an unprecedented level of private-sector investment and job growth,” said U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. “With our robust wind and solar resources, New Mexico is at the epicenter of the rapidly growing clean energy economy. As consumers and major companies demand cheaper and cleaner power sources, our state stands to benefit and become an even bigger leader in this booming energy sector- especially in rural communities. We should be doing everything we can to meet our state’s full potential as a wind energy powerhouse, from building new transmission infrastructure to investing in job-training programs. I will keep fighting for policies that move New Mexico’s energy economy forward.”

With 1,723 MW under construction or in advanced development, New Mexico’s wind capacity is on track to double in the near term, the report notes. To unlock New Mexico’s full wind power potential, the state will need to expand transmission line infrastructure and continue to implement successful energy policies. Implementing policies that attract investment in a diverse energy mix – like New Mexico’s successful renewable portfolio standard – help the state stay competitive and attract future investment, says AWEA.

The report notes that new technology is helping the wind industry reach performance heights; new projects are operating at annual capacity factors of 40% and higher. As a result, the cost of wind energy is down two-thirds since 2009. Utilities and other customers, including Fortune 500 brands and American cities, have taken note of wind energy’s value and are eagerly buying large amounts of it, says AWEA.

In New Mexico, these trends are helping diversify the energy supply and the economy. Access to renewable energy, including abundant wind resources, was a key consideration in Facebook’s decision to triple the size of its New Mexico data center, representing a $1 billion investment, in addition to the more than 200 MW of wind and 80 MW of solar investments. Facebook worked alongside PNM Resources, the local energy provider, to develop a green tariff that enabled two new wind farms and additional solar resources to supply the data center. Facebook’s latest investments represent an over 50% increase in renewable energy in the PNM resource portfolio, according to the report.

Facebook is committed to increasing access to renewable energy resources. We are proud of the work we have done in states like New Mexico to spur the growth of renewable energy and develop green tariffs,” said Bobby Hollis, director of global energy at Facebook. “These tariffs not only allow our data centers to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, but they create new opportunities for the development of hundreds of megawatts of additional wind and solar energy. As of today, Facebook has enabled over 1,000 MW of renewable energy to be added to the grid in the U.S.”

The report points out that U.S. wind power, employing a record 105,500 men and women, continues to create jobs across the country. Wind projects or wind-related factories are present in all 50 states, plus Guam and Puerto Rico, and farming communities and factory towns are the biggest beneficiaries.

Nationally, wind turbine technician is one of the country’s two fastest-growing jobs, along with solar installer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, N.M., is one of the schools training the next generation of wind turbine technicians needed to operate and maintain wind farms. Enrollment in the college’s wind turbine technology program has almost doubled year-over-year for the last three years as demand continues to rise with wind farms built in New Mexico and across the U.S., the report says.

Wind turbines use no fuel, but they must be forged in factories by skilled workers, AWEA points out. There are over 500 U.S. wind-related factories across 41 states producing components for the wind industry, fueling a domestic manufacturing sector that supports over 23,000 U.S. factory jobs.

The wind industry invests heavily in rural communities, which host 99% of wind farms. Ranchers and farmers were paid an estimated $267 million in 2017 to lease private land for wind farm development while retaining the ability to farm or raise livestock under the turbines. In rural communities across the nation, wind investment provides recession-proof career opportunities and property, state and local tax revenue to fund schools, roads and emergency services, the report notes.

On the environmental side, operating wind projects avoided 189 million metric tons of CO2 and helped avoid the use of 95 billion gallons of water in 2017. That is the equivalent of eliminating carbon pollution from 40 million cars and saving 292 gallons of water per person in the U.S. Because wind power uses almost no water – less than any other energy source – farmers and ranchers in drought-prone regions have less competition for vital water resources, says AWEA.

Representing wind power’s bipartisan support, wind projects or wind-related factories are present in 70% of U.S. congressional districts, including 75% of Republican districts and 62% of Democratic districts, the report adds.

“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,” added Kiernan. “Wind is competitively priced, reliable and clean – a winning combination that’s creating economic growth in all 50 states.”

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Why is wind competively priced? Does wind have a price tag on it?