NCEW Fun Facts: Wind

Happy Wind-nesday! Today we’re talking about wind energy as a renewable energy.

  1. Wind energy requires no fuel costs and is one of the most affordable forms of energy today.

  2. It’s a free, renewable energy that is nonpolluting.

  3. America has 82 GW of wind power capability with Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, California, and Kansas leading the charge.

  4. Windmills have been used since 2000 B.C. The most popular form today is converting it to electrical energy.

  5. There has been a 25% increase in wind turbine use in the last decade, but wind energy still accounts for a small percentage of works wind energy.

  6. Wind Turbines are as high as 20 story buildings and have blades that are 65 yards long. They’re basically airplane propellers on a stick.

  7. Large turbines can harness energy for 600 homes.

  8. Since wind power doesn’t use water, by 2030 wind power will save 30 trillion bottles of water in the U.S.

  9. The world’s largest wind turbine is located in Hawaii. It is 20 stories tall and has blades the length of a football field.

  10. Small turbines can be used to charge batteries or as backup power to ships.

To start with, a renewable energy requires no fuel costs, and wind energy is one of the most affordable forms of energy today  With recent technology on the rise, consumers are able to lock in 20 or 30 year long contracts, which are known as Power Purchase Agreements, or PPAs for short. On top of that, wind energy is free, renewable, and we will always have some supply in the future. It’s also a clean, non-polluting source of electricity, and it emits no air pollution or greenhouse gasses.

Wind that used to be used for windmills is now used to turn giant turbines. If you’ve ever driven across states such as Nebraska, Wyoming, and Indiana, you have probably seen huge wind farms with giant wind turbines. Those turbines bring power to businesses and homes all over the country.

America currently has 82 GW of wind power capability, with Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, California, and Kansas leading the charge with the most wind capacity installed. Additionally, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reports that fourteen states have more than 10% of their generation coming from wind power: North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, Maine, Vermont, Oregon, and Idaho. With technological advances, the amount of wind energy that we’re able to harvest is increasing. In 2000, we only had 2,539 megawatts of installed generating capacity-- and in 2016, we had 82,183. The Department of Energy (DOE) has a plan to get 20% of the US’s electric power from wind energy. This plan lays out a way to get the US on more of a renewable environmentally friendly base.

Now you may be saying, I’m not a fan of government involvement in private business, and let me assure you-- neither am I. In June, the New York Times posted an article entitled, In Trump Country, Renewable Energy Is Thriving . The article talks about how in 2014 Kansas repealed a law requiring that 20% of the state’s electric power come from renewable sources by 2020. Amazingly, Kansas reached 20% in 2014, and last year Kansas generated 30% of their power from wind! Astonishingly, in the absence of government intervention. In fact, Kansas and Iowa are currently battling it out to see who can hit 50% by 2018.

“We export lots of things, and in our future, I want us to export a lot of wind power,” Kansas’s conservative Republican governor, Sam Brownback, said in a speech in 2011. “We need more of it, and we need more of it now.”

While it has a larger start up costs compared to other forms of energy,  once set up, they are expected to operate for minimum of 20 years. About 80% of the costs is the initial machinery. According to the DOE,  “If wind generating systems are compared with fossil-fueled systems on a ‘life-cycle’ cost basis (counting fuel and operating expenses for the life of a generator)… wind costs are much more competitive with other generating technologies because there is no fuel to purchase and minimal operating expenses.” Even electric utilities have noted this value of wind energy, with CEO of Xcel Energy, Ben Fowke, noting that “these projects will lower customer costs by at least $800 million over their lives and will provide a valuable hedge to rising and volatile fuel prices for well into the future.”

In conclusion, there are no significant downsides to wind energy. It’s an effective, efficient, renewable energy, which is on the rise in America today. Colorado Senator Cory Gardner said, “I've tried to convince members of my party that we should not allow the hair on the backs of our necks to bristle every time somebody mentions renewable energy.” It’s about time that conservatives get back into the conversation and support renewable energy, especially wind energy.

If you want to know more about the basics of wind energy and how the turbines work check out this video from the DOE explaining the basics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsZITSeQFR0

AnnaKatherine Clarke