The U.S. wind energy boom couldn’t be coming at a better time
The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, released last week, requires the country to use a lot more renewable energy by the year 2030 — and a lot less coal. And right on time, two new reports published Monday by the Department of Energy find that one key renewable sector — wind — is booming, a development that can only help matters when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.
The reports being released — including the 2014 Wind Technologies Market Report, published by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — suggest that wind is being installed at a rapid rate, that its costs are plummeting, that its technologies are advancing, and that it is creating a growing number of jobs to boot.
Wind energy in the U.S. is now at 66 gigawatts of installed capacity, according to the report — providing roughly 5 percent of total U.S. electricity demand. 66 gigawatts is enough electricity to power 17.5 million homes (a gigawatt is a billion watts). And, says Jose Zayas, who heads the wind and water power technologies office at the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 13 more gigawatts are now “in the construction phase” and set to come online by 2016.
For reference, in 2012, the U.S. had 1063 gigawatts of total installed electricity capacity, according to the Energy Information Administration.
“It really dispels some of the past myths that you cannot have significant amounts of wind energy in the system — a variable source in the system — without really affecting the overall efficiency,” says Zayas.
In the meantime, wind now provides 73,000 jobs, the new report finds. And most striking, it found that the wholesale cost of wind energy — bought under a “power purchasing agreement,” or PPA, in which a utility or company buys power from a wind farm under a long term contract — is now just 2.35 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s the lowest it has ever been.