Tapping Into Wind Power (2011)
Wind power is capable of generating power at prices competitive with new natural gas plants and cheaper than new coal and nuclear plants.
All across the United States, abundant wind resources can be harnessed to produce reliable and clean electricity. And compared with fossil fuels, wind power offers substantial public health, economic, and environmental benefits.
- It produces no air or water pollution, global warming emissions, or waste products, and saves water;
- It can also create jobs and other local economic benefits;
- It can stabilize and even reduce energy prices;
- It can cut dependence on imported fossil fuels, thus increasing our energy security, and;
- It conserves natural resources for future generations.
For these reasons, wind is a viable energy solution that can play a major role in our transition to a sustainable energy future.
Relying on the Wind
The fact that the wind does not blow all the time poses some challenges to the electricity sector, but these challenges are neither unique nor insurmountable.
Wind power can and does provide reliable electric service to consumers. Many utilities are already demonstrating that wind power can make a significant contribution to their electric supply without reliability problems.
According to the Department of Energy (DOE), nine U.S. utilities generated between 10 and 38 percent of their power from wind in 2009 (Wiser and Bolinger 2010). The largest user of wind power, Xcel Energy (which serves nearly 3.5 million customers across eight Western and Midwestern states), obtains 11 percent of its electricity from wind and plans to approach 20 percent by 2020.
Further, wind power already supplies 20 percent of the electricity or more for several areas in Europe: Denmark currently leads all nations with 20 percent wind penetration, and two states in Germany with a combined population of 4 million get 40 percent of their electricity from wind (Earth Policy Institute 2010).
Promising developments in storage technology have the potential to enhance reliability even more, though there are plenty of opportunities for wind power to expand without storage during the next 20 years at least.
The Future of Wind Power in America
Increasingly competitive prices, the ability to create jobs and boost local economies, and the promise of a new energy resource that poses little threat to public health or the environment suggest a bright future for wind power in the United States.
Wind power stands out as a smart choice for an economy based on clean, sustainable energy.
A determined national effort would allow us to harness our abundant wind resources and produce affordable and reliable electricity, while protecting our health and environment for generations to come.