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Wind Power Becomes America's Largest Renewable Resource

Energy
Wind Power Becomes America's Largest Renewable Resource
Wind farm in Power County, Idaho. Photo credit: Energy.gov

Wind power overtook hydropower to become the biggest source of renewable electric capacity in the U.S. in 2016 and is now the nation's fourth-largest energy source overall, according to figures released Thursday by the American Wind Energy Association.

New wind installations in 2016 pushed the sector to more than 82 GW total capacity nationwide, enough to power 24 million homes. Nearly 6,500 MW of capacity were installed between October and December alone. According to the Department of Energy, the wind industry employed more than 100,000 workers in 2016, a 32 percent bump from 2015.

"American wind power is now the number one source of renewable capacity, thanks to more than 100,000 wind workers across all 50 states," said Tom Kiernan, AWEA CEO.

"Growing this made-in-the-USA clean energy resource helps rural communities pay for new roads, bridges, and schools, while bringing back manufacturing jobs to the Rust Belt. With our two-thirds cost reduction over the last seven years, household brands like General Motors, Walmart, and more are buying low-cost wind energy to cut costs and power their businesses. American wind power is on track to double our output over the next five years, and supply 10 percent of U.S. electricity by 2020."

For a deeper dive:

New York Times, The Hill, Politico Pro, Greenwire, ThinkProgress, Mashable, Morning Consult

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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