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Apple Finally Jumps on the Wind Power Bandwagon

By Greg Alvarez

Over the past few months, we've seen big wind energy investments from the likes of GM, Facebook, Home Depot and others. But one of the world's largest companies and leading proponents of doing business using 100 percent renewable energy, has been conspicuously absent: Apple.

That finally changed this week.

Apple announced this week it has signed a power purchase agreement to buy wind energy from a soon-to-be-built Oregon wind farm. It will power an in-state data center about 130 miles away from the wind farm and Apple said the project is its largest renewable energy investment to date.

Apple plans to hit its 100 percent renewable energy goal by sourcing renewables through a combination of direct project ownership and long-term contracts with new renewable energy projects and preferably from projects in the same state as their facilities. When it can't do either of those, it procures renewable energy from "newer projects in nearby markets … through available utility green energy programs … or [through] strong renewable energy credits (RECs) tied to recently constructed renewable energy projects."

In 2016, Fortune 500 companies and other non-utility customers signed 39 percent of the capacity contracted through wind power purchase agreements and their strong interest in wind has continued into 2017.

Companies like Apple choose to power their operations using renewables like wind not just because it's good for the environment, but also because it helps their bottom lines.

"This pursuit of renewable energy benefits our customers and communities through cleaner air while strengthening our business through lower and more stable energy costs," said GM Chairwoman and CEO Mary Barra, speaking about her company's 100 percent renewable pledge.

Check out this video to hear straight from the source about why some of the world's largest companies want to make more of their products using wind power:

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11 Reasons to Celebrate Wind Energy's Record Year

By John Hensley

AWEA released its U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, Year Ending 2016 today, which showcases strong, steady growth throughout the year.

Wind power became the largest source of renewable generating capacity and supplied record amounts of wind energy to many parts of the country. Strong wind project construction, a growing manufacturing sector and the increasing need for wind turbine technicians and operators allowed the industry to add jobs at a rate nine times faster than the overall job market, as wind employment grew to a record 102,500.

Technology advances resulted in more productive turbines, with recent generations achieving average capacity factors more than 40 percent, all while costs continued to fall. And the industry saw the installation of the country's first offshore wind project off the coast of Rhode Island.

Here are the top 11 wind industry trends in 2016:

1. Record Wind Jobs

For the first time in history, there are more than 100,000 Americans employed in the U.S. wind energy industry. Strong wind construction activity throughout the year, combined with a strengthening wind manufacturing sector and growing need for personnel to operate and maintain more than 52,000 wind turbines, allowed the industry to add nearly 15,000 full-time equivalent jobs in 2016.

That brings total U.S. wind industry jobs to 102,500. Impressively, the U.S. wind industry added jobs more than nine times faster than the overall economy. Strong wind project installation, construction, and development activity, combined with strong wind-related manufacturing activity, and over 52,000 wind turbines to operate and maintain, led wind jobs to grow 16.5 percent. That's compared to 1.8 percent for the overall U.S. job market.

2. Wind #1 Source of Renewable Generating Capacity

Wind energy passed hydroelectric power to become the number one source of renewable generating capacity in 2016. With federal policy stability secured, the U.S. wind industry installed 8,203 megawatts (MW) in 2016 and the industry now has 82,143 MW installed overall, enough wind power for the equivalent of 24 million American homes.

3. Generation Records Set

Wind energy delivered more than 30 percent of the electricity produced in Iowa and South Dakota in 2016. Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota generated more than 20 percent of their electricity from wind, while 20 states now produce more than five percent of their electricity from wind energy. ERCOT, the main grid operator for most of Texas, and SPP, which operates across parts of 14 states, competed for new wind power penetration records throughout 2016, both topping 50 percent wind energy on several occasions.

4. U.S. Manufacturing Sector Growth

Wind energy continues to fuel the domestic manufacturing sector, with more than 500 factories across 41 states producing components for the U.S. wind industry in 2016. Domestic wind-related manufacturing jobs grew 17 percent to more than 25,000 as three new factories began supplying the wind industry and five plants expanded production.

5. Technology Boosts Productivity

Technological advances allow wind turbines to reach stronger, steadier winds, and more sophisticated control systems are increasing the amount of electricity modern wind turbines generate. Wind turbines built in 2014 and 2015 achieved capacity factors more than 40 percent during 2016. At the same time, the cost of wind energy dropped more than 66 percent between 2009 and 2016.

6. Corporations and Utilities Want Wind

Fortune 500 companies, electric utilities and others signed 47 power purchase agreements totaling more than 4,000 MW during 2016. In doing so, they cited the declining costs and stable price of wind power as factors. Utilities submitted Integrated Resource Plans detailing at least 14,000 MW in wind power additions in the past two years.

7. Record Wind Enters Queue

67 gigawatts of newly proposed wind projects were added to interconnection queues in 2016, the largest since the addition of 67.3 GW in 2009. This brings total wind capacity in the queues to 136.8 GW, the highest level in five years.

8. Improving the Transmission Grid

Transmission expansion to serve wind continues, particularly in MISO and SPP. A number of proposed interregional Direct Current transmission lines have now also cleared final permitting hurdles. In total, transmission projects that could support the delivery of nearly 52,000 MW of wind energy over the next five years are currently under development, though not all are likely to be built.

9. Wind Benefits Every State

More than 74 percent of U.S. congressional districts have operational wind energy projects or active wind-related manufacturing facilities, including 77 percent of Republican districts and 69 percent of Democratic districts. The industry invested more than $14.1 billion in new wind projects and supported 102,500 jobs across all 50 states.

10. Wind Reduces Emissions and Saves Water
Operational wind projects avoided 393 million pounds of sulfur dioxide and 243 million pounds of nitrogen oxide. These pollutants create smog and trigger asthma attacks, so reducing them saved $7.4 billion in public health costs last year. Meanwhile, operating wind projects avoided the consumption of 87 billion gallons of water, equivalent to 266 gallons per person in the U.S.

11. Offshore Wind Debut
The first offshore wind project in the U.S. began operating in late 2016. The five turbine, 30 MW Block Island wind farm is located three miles off the coast of Rhode Island, near Block Island.

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel atop Shedd Aquarium.

Chicago Takes Giant Step Towards Becoming 100% Renewable

By Alexander Laska

The city of Chicago announced this week that renewable energy will power 100 percent of all of its government buildings by 2025, making the Windy City the country's largest to make that pledge.

That's no small feat: With more than 900 city-owned buildings—including public schools and colleges, park district fieldhouses and buildings owned by the Chicago Housing Authority—Chicago has the country's largest fleet of public buildings. Last year, they accounted for eight percent of all electricity use in Chicago.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city will meet its goal by acquiring renewable energy credits, purchasing utility-supplied renewable energy through the state's renewable portfolio standard and increasing on-site generation by installing more wind turbines and solar panels.

If going 100 percent is a challenge, wind is up to the task: It already supplies 5.7 percent of Illinois's electricity needs. That's enough to power more than 982,000 homes and Illinois ranks as the seventh highest state in installed wind generating capacity.

"By committing the energy used to power our public buildings to wind and solar energy, we are sending a clear signal that we remain committed to building a 21st-century economy here in Chicago," Emanuel said.

Illinois already reaps the economic benefits of wind: The industry employs more than 4,000 people in the state, gives over $10 million annually in land-lease payments to farmers and ranchers hosting turbines and has brought $8.4 billion in investment into Illinois's economy.

Across the U.S., there is a clear trend of cities large and small committing to go big on clean energy and using wind power to get there: Greensburg, Kansas gets 100 percent of its electricity from wind and Georgetown, Texas became 100 percent renewable earlier this year, using 50 percent wind energy.

By committing to powering all of its public buildings with clean energy, Chicago has become America's next and biggest city to take a giant step towards becoming 100 percent renewable.

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Wind Generates Enough Electricity to Power 24 Million Homes

By Greg Alvarez, American Wind Energy Association

All of the new wind farms built over the past few years are making an impact: New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration finds the country generated more than 5.5 percent of its electricity using wind in 2016.

That comes on the heels of a recent announcement that wind is now the country's largest source of installed renewable generating capacity. All told, the U.S. now has enough wind to power 24 million American homes.

Even More Impressive Results at the State Level

At the state level is where things get really exciting. Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Oklahoma all generated at least 20 percent of their electricity with wind last year. Overall, wind supplies at least 10 percent of the electricity in 14 states.

Most impressive among those rising up the wind energy chart is New Mexico, which increased its total annual wind generation by 73 percent over 2015 levels. Wind reliably supplies just under 11 percent of the state's electricity.

Growing Wind Creates a Better Tomorrow

All of this growth boosts rural American economies. Wind has attracted more than $140 billion into the U.S. economy over the last decade and billions more are on the way. It also offers farmers and ranchers a new cash crop—these landowners are paid $245 million every year for hosting wind turbines.

"Wind power is cheap, clean and infinite and it saves Oklahomans hundreds of dollars annually on their utility bills," said Brad Raven, District One commissioner for Beaver County Oklahoma. "When you consider that landowners receive millions in annual royalties from wind projects, you have an energy sector that is literally saving rural Oklahoma."

More Progress is Possible

Wind remains on track to supply 10 percent of the country's electricity by 2020 and grid operators increasingly find integrating more of it doesn't pose a problem. The Southwest Power Pool recently set a new record, with wind exceeding 50 percent grid penetration last month. And much more can be done:

"Ten years ago we thought hitting even a 25 percent wind-penetration level would be extremely challenging and any more than that would pose serious threats to reliability," said Bruce Rew, Southwest Power Pool's vice president of operations. "Now we have the ability to reliably manage greater than 50 percent. It's not even our ceiling."

Elsewhere, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found 30 percent renewable energy integration was possible in the Eastern Interconnection, the grid serving most of the Eastern U.S., without any further technological advances necessary.

For more information on how wind is reliably and affordably helping the U.S. move toward energy independence, check out this video:

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