Wind Energy Boom Sweeping U.S., Industry Watchers Say
John Roach, October 25, 2006 (National Geographic News)
- U.S. citizens are beginning to come to terms with the country's energy needs and are finding an answer blowing in the wind, according to electric power industry experts.
- "Last year, and again this year, wind is going to be the second largest source of new power generation coming online," said Christine Real de Azua, a spokesperson for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) in Washington, D.C.
- Natural gas remains the leader in new generating capacity, but wind, which currently supplies less than one percent of the nation's energy, is booming…This year alone, the industry is on course to add 3,000 megawatts of wind power generation. The country's total wind power capacity was just 2,500 megawatts in 2000, Real de Azua says.
- A megawatt is enough electricity to power 250 to 300 average U.S. homes…This August, U.S. wind energy generation capacity breezed over a milestone of 10,000 megawatts. That's enough electricity to power at least 2.5 million homes…[Xcel Energy renewable energy analyst] Stephen Wilson says increased awareness of the country's energy needs is helping drive the interest in wind power…"With the cost of oil, the Iraqi war going on, and natural gas prices spiking up, I think people's consciousness of our energy position has probably hit an all time high…”
- [I]ndustry is racing to install and turn on new wind turbines before a tax incentive expires at the end of 2007…Buffalo Ridge—a range of hills that juts southwest across South Dakota, Minnesota, and into Iowa—is a shining example of the wind power boom…the electric power industry considers the region one of the best wind resources in the country, and turbines are popping up there like weeds…More than 500 towers line the ridge, and several hundred more are in the works…
- Power companies have plans to add an additional 150 megawatts of capacity in the region…Xcel Energy is in the midst of a 160-million-U.S.-dollar update to the region's transmission lines to export an additional 500 megawatts of wind energy from the rural ridge to urban centers…transmission capacity needs to grow to deliver the wind energy.
- Today, almost half of all U.S. electricity is generated from coal, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration. Nuclear and natural gas account for nearly 20 percent each.
- Wind itself makes up less than one percent of the total mix, but its "potential is vast," Real de Azua said…there is enough harvestable wind blowing across the country to meet the twice the current total energy demand…even states that appear to have little wind are installing new wind generation capacity…
- California currently has 2,323 megawatts of wind power installed, and until this summer it had the highest wind power capacity in the country. Texas squeaked past California in July, reporting 2,370 megawatts installed…