For the wind power watchers out there, it’s been a week chock full of good news.
Wind is now the largest renewable energy resource in the United States, as measured by installed capacity. Wind surpassed hydropower to become the nation’s fourth largest source of electric capacity behind natural gas, coal and nuclear power.
Most of that capacity was added in Texas, the Midwest and Plains states, regions of the country that are hungry for the economic development. In 2016, the wind industry invested $10.5 billion in low-income rural areas of the country.
Currently, wind generates only about 5.5 percent of our nation’s electricity, but it generates a much larger share in some parts of the country. On February 12, more than 50 percent of the electricity in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP)— the entity that manages the electric grid for 14 states in the central United States — came from wind energy, setting a new record. Bruce Rew, vice president of operations at SPP, said that the organization expects to deploy more wind energy to “maintain a reliable and economic grid of the future.”
Overseas, China continues to lead on renewable energy, having installed 23 GW of new wind capacity in 2016, nearly three times the capacity installed in the United States. Both countries, however, will need to build more transmission lines to carry power generated on wind farms in rural areas to power-hungry cities on the coasts.
Congress will start looking at infrastructure this week, including power infrastructure. Twenty governors, including both Democrats and Republicans, are urging lawmakers to local modernize power grids to incorporate more renewable energy. They note that U.S. wind employs more than 100,000 Americans and injects billions of dollars into struggling communities.