Wind Power in U.S. Hits New Milestone: Enough Energy to Power 19 Million Homes
Wind power in the U.S. just hit a new milestone with 70 gigawatts of capacity installed across the country as of November. That's enough to power 19 million homes or meet the total electricity demand of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said Monday.
.@AWEA announces major milestone for U.S. #windpower - https://t.co/wcTzQIDvbm #wind #renewables https://t.co/XBPzRMrCfJ— NA Windpower (@NA Windpower)1450794896.0
“This American wind power success story just gets better," Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, said. “Wind energy is the biggest, fastest and cheapest way we can cut carbon pollution here in the U.S., and as wind power grows, so will savings for American families and businesses all across the country.”
The news also comes just days after Congress extended the production tax credit and alternative investment tax credit as part of the government spending bill. The tax credits, which have been crucial in the industry’s growth, will be extended for at least five years. The extension sent wind and solar stocks soaring last week.
Wind power reached 50 and 60 gigawatts in 2012 when the tax credit was in place, but growth temporarily stalled in 2013 as Congress let it expire. The extension provides a "predictable business environment needed to keep U.S. factories open and further scale up American wind power," AWEA said.
And while wind may still make up a small percent of the nation's electricity, that is rapidly changing.
"We're approaching 4.5 to five percent of total electricity use in the United States," Michael Goggin, senior director of research at AWEA, told NPR. "In 2007—just eight years ago—that figure was less than one percent."
Big news for U.S. wind energy: there are now 70 gigawatts of wind power in America #windworks #energy https://t.co/RfdaoTBTTm— American Wind Energy (@American Wind Energy)1450706587.0
And it's not just the tax credit that makes wind so appealing. Costs are down, too.
"The cost of wind energy is down by 66 percent—or two-thirds—since 2009," said Goggin, who credits new technology and economies of scale for the decreasing costs.
It's been an exciting year for wind power. Currently, there are more than 50,000 wind turbines operating in the U.S. at more than 980 utility-scale wind farms across 40 states and Puerto Rico. Construction began on America's first offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island last spring. Texas wind farms were generating so much power this year that utilities were giving electricity away for free.
And there were two recent developments off the coast of Scotland. The world's largest floating wind farm got the green light and Donald Trump lost his fight against a wind farm being built near his Menie golf resort in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
The future looks bright for wind, too. In a recent report, the U.S. Department of Energy projected that wind energy would double to make up 10 percent of the nation's electricity by 2020 and then double again to make up 20 percent by 2030. That kind of growth would generate 380,000 American jobs.
Also this year, the Department of Energy found that there is wind power potential in nearly the entire U.S., even in places that were previously thought to have insufficient wind to generate electricity. The agency reported that wind power could become the nation's leading electricity source (35 percent) by 2050.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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