Improvements in wind power will cut down on coal consumption

Improvements in wind power will cut down on coal consumption

After several years of planning and construction, an energy transmission project is coming to South Dakota. CapX2020 has a goal of constructing 710 miles of transmission lines in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and will carry 1,265 kilovolts of electricity.

The electricity carried through the lines will come from a variety of sources, but one goal of the transmission lines is to make use of renewable resources, namely wind energy. North Dakota has the highest wind energy potential in the U.S., according to CapX2020. South Dakota is third and Minnesota is ninth.

According to KSFY of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, wind energy production in the area has slowed down for the past several years because of difficulty moving the electricity to where it is needed. The CapX2020 project will allow the wind industry in the state to begin growing again.

"We could become a big producer of wind energy but we gotta be able to move it," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told KSFY. "So having these types of transmission lines built is just absolutely critical."

The future of U.S. energy use
The announcement that construction will soon be underway came at the same time President Obama explained his completed Clean Power Plan, according to Sioux Falls newspaper the Argus Leader. The plan requires that states reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030.

This will likely lead to coal plant closures and more reliance on renewable resources. However, some worry about rising energy costs and the ability of renewable resources to fully take the place of coal.

"If coal plants are going to shut down, they can't shut down until they're replaced," Paul Bachman, president of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association, told the Argus leader. "Your options are wind, natural gas and solar, and your most likely candidates in South Dakota are wind and natural gas."

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind energy in 2014 contributed 4.4 percent of the country's total energy generation, whereas coal contributed 39 percent.

However, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory indicated that wind energy potential is in a good position to grow. CleanTechnica blogger Clayton Handleman explains that this could mean that wind energy has the potential to replace coal in the U.S.

Weather affects wind production
Unlike coal, wind energy production varies throughout the year. According the the EIA, most regions peak in production during the spring, but decline during summer. California is the exception to this rule, increasing its production during June.

Weather patterns also affect wind energy generation. CNBC reported that the El Nino weather pattern has decreased wind production noticeably in the past six months.

Though wind is susceptible to seasonal rises and falls, the renewable energy source has proven to be a strong source for the country's energy generation. Developments like CapX2020 encourage more reliance on wind energy and other renewable resources. Continued growth in the wind industry will decrease reliance on coal.

The project will not only bring new sources of energy to South Dakotans, but it will also bring more jobs to the area. South Dakota landowner Paul Dummann said the project will open wind farms that have been stopped for years. The lines are expected to be completed and in use by the fall of 2017.

More information about wind power can be found on PennEnergy's research area.

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