Quantcast

Wind Power's Unprecedented Contribution to Electricity Generation in 2012

Energy

Earth Policy Institute

By J. Matthew Roney

Defying conventional wisdom about the limits of wind power, in 2012 both Iowa and South Dakota generated close to one quarter of their electricity from wind farms. Wind power accounted for at least 10 percent of electricity generation in seven other states. Across the U.S., wind power continues to strengthen its case as a serious energy source.

The U.S. now has 60,000 megawatts of wind online, enough to meet the electricity needs of more than 14 million homes. A record 13,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity was added to the country’s energy portfolio in 2012, more than any other electricity-generating technology. Wind developers installed close to two thirds of the new wind capacity in the final quarter of the year. Nearly 60 wind projects, totaling more than 5,000 megawatts, came online in December alone as developers scrambled to complete construction by the end of the year to qualify for the federal wind production tax credit (PTC) that was scheduled to expire.

Texas, the U.S. leader in overall wind development, saw its wind power capacity grow to 12,200 megawatts in 2012, an increase of 18 percent over 2011. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the grid manager for 23 million customers in the state, reports that wind farms generated over 9 percent of the electricity it delivered in 2012. Only four countries outside the U.S. have more installed wind capacity than the state of Texas.

California added more than 1,600 megawatts of wind in 2012 to reach 5,500 megawatts, overtaking Iowa for the country’s second highest overall wind capacity. State law requires utilities in California to get one third of the electricity they sell from renewable sources by 2020. Similar requirements have been adopted in each of the other top 10 states in installed wind capacity except for Oklahoma. But that state may have already exceeded its non-binding 2015 goal of 15 percent renewable electricity.

At the national level, wind farms generated 3.5 percent of U.S. electricity in 2012, up from 2.9 percent the year before. Compared with conventional sources, this is still a small share. But wind generation has quadrupled since 2007, growing by more than 30 percent per year. Among the five leading sources of electricity in the U.S., none comes close to matching wind’s recent rate of growth. In fact, generation from nuclear and coal plants is declining at 1 percent and 5.5 percent per year, respectively. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign reports that more than 140 of the roughly 500 U.S. coal-fired power plants are slated to retire, indicating even greater drops to come in coal-derived electricity.

As part of the broader federal budget deal in early January 2013 to avert the “fiscal cliff,” the wind PTC was extended for one year and modified to allow projects that begin construction by the end of 2013 to qualify. Unfortunately, wind turbine manufacturers had seen new orders plummet in anticipation of the credit’s expiration, making it likely that new wind capacity additions in the U.S. in 2013 will be much less impressive than 2012—perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts. Actual wind electricity generation, on the other hand, should see a substantial boost as the wind farms completed in late 2012 spend their first full year in operation.

According to Windpower Monthly, analysts expect installations to rebound to between 5,000 and 8,000 megawatts in 2014. Looking beyond the next year or two, a coherent, long-term national energy policy—one that levels the playing field for renewables relative to conventional sources—is needed to finally leave behind the boom-bust cycle of wind development and begin to take full advantage of this vast resource.

 Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

——–

Click here to tell Congress to Expedite Renewable Energy.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, on proventricular spines of a Xenopsylla cheopis flea. NIAID / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.

Read More Show Less

By Sabrina Kessler

Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Alex Robinson

Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.

The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.

Read More Show Less
People navigate snow-covered sidewalks in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Nov. 11 in Chicago. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
A general view of the flooded St. Mark's Square after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, on Nov. 13 in Venice. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP / Getty Images

Two people have died as Venice has been inundated by the worst flooding it has seen in more than 50 years, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less