By continuing to advance technology and lower costs, wind power, America's fastest growing new source of electricity, will stay on pace to grow to supply 10 percent of U.S. electricity by 2020, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Helping to grow wind energy in the U.S. are a mix of stable federal policy, passed late last year on a bipartisan vote by Congress, forward-looking states raising their renewable energy targets, and corporate and other non-utility buyers aiming to cut carbon pollution and pass savings onto American homeowners and businesses.
"We've built an American success story that creates jobs, cuts carbon pollution and cuts costs for American consumers," said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. "To continue this success by installing at least eight gigawatts a year through 2020, we need our 88,000 workers to share our story with elected officials, the communities that host our projects, and with all the young people throughout the country."
"Wind is winning," said Chris Brown, President of Vestas America and recently-elected board chair of AWEA. ""While our fuel is free, our customers know, the machines aren't free. The challenge is to make renewable technology so cheap that it's the obvious choice. That's why we've driven down costs by technology advancement including longer rotors, taller towers, advanced controls, and product reliability. Investor appetite has grown, also lowering the cost of capital. And as a result, the real cost of wind power in the US has dropped by more than 60 percent."
Wind power's transformation is on full display this week in Louisiana, leading former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to note its potential for her state.
"Louisiana has a proud energy past, and a proud energy present, and we are very interested in being part of the energy future," said Landrieu, now Senior Advisor at Van Ness Feldman. "Louisiana has always been great manufacturing state and we already have a foot in the future with three manufacturers of wind turbines here. If our nation wants to be truly energy independent, which we can be, meeting our clean energy targets, having an industry like this growing 10 percent by 2020, 20 percent by 2030, is really remarkable."
"Wind power is not just part of, but now leading the transformation of the U.S. and the world economies into low carbon, renewable-fueled economies," said Kiernan.
There is now enough wind power installed in 40 states to reliably supply power for 20 million American homes. After installing more new electric generating capacity than any other technology last year, including solar or natural gas, wind power jobs grew 20 percent entering 2016. Along with this 'wind rush,' U.S. manufacturing and innovation continues to advance turbine technology and enable it to be economically installed in new areas including the American South.
Cost cuts have led zero-emission wind energy to become one of the biggest, fastest, cheapest ways to cut carbon pollution. This result has attracted a growing number of states, including California, Oregon, Maryland, Vermont, and Hawaii, to raise their state laws requiring larger integration of renewable energy.
"We've gone to 20 percent renewables by 2020, we're ahead of schedule," said Steve Berberich, President and Chief Executive Officer of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), a featured guest in today's opening General Session. "Without question we'll be able to manage the grid with renewable energy at 50 percent. I don't anticipate California stopping at 50 percent; I think we'll go higher and higher and higher."
Encouraging renewable energy's growth has helped keep state's economies competitive. A recent national report from Lawrence Berkley National Lab and the National Renewable Energy Lab shows that fulfilling state RPS policies creates billions in economic and environmental savings and has led to the addition of more than 200,000 jobs nationwide.
To lower their carbon footprints and keep long-term costs low, corporate buyers, including Google, Amazon, Facebook, and other emerging customers, are buying more and more wind power. These big-name brands and others signed 52 percent, or 2,074 megawatts (MW), of the capacity contracted in 2015 through Power Purchase Agreements, a trend expected to continue.
Partly due to this rising source of demand, wind energy could grow to the leading source of electricity in America at 35 percent by 2050 according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Vision report, which shows wind can support 380,000 well-paying jobs by 2030 and 600,000 jobs by 2050.