From the Austin American Statesman – April 11, 2017
Thirty miles north of the state capital, there’s a community that’s one of the first U.S. cities to get 100 percent of its power from wind and other renewable energy. It has generated national news attention and no small sense of wonder. Because in conservative Georgetown, green is the color of money as well as a clear signal of the power of inexpensive, home-grown clean energy to drive jobs and economic growth across America.
Wind is winning because of its low price and predictability, which Texans have seized on to become the No. 1 state in total wind-powered electricity. At peakproduction times, wind has generated nearly 50 percent of the electricity powering the Lone Star State’s grid.
Across the nation, wind is now a mainstream part of the U.S. energy mix, and common ground Americans agree on.
The facts tell the story. In 2016 wind surpassed hydroelectric to become the No. 1 U.S. renewable energy in total capacity. In the past two years, renewables were 65 percent of new U.S. utility-scale generating capacity. Wind has been leading the way, exceeding other new utility-scale energy sources for 2015-2016 combined, including solar and natural gas.
Wind is winning in energy markets because it’s delivering on business fundamentals – offering innovation, low cost and long-term pricing. Wind-power costs are down 66 percent since 2009, making it the cheapest new source of electric-generating capacity across much of the nation.
That’s good news in America’s heartland, where wind power has arrived – in a big way. Wind has demonstrated it can drive jobs, growth and income resiliency in the rural Midwest, Rust Belt and beyond. Today, wind accounts for more than 1,000 utility-scale projects, 500 manufacturing facilities and 52,000 wind turbines stretching across all 50 U.S. states.
Wind is a key contributor to U.S. energy independence and investment. No surprise it has bipartisan backing from large majorities, including 85 percent of Texans. Wind is delivering for Americans – in their wallets, workplace and homes:
• For U.S. farmers and ranchers, wind power is the new drought-proof cash crop. Last year, wind-farm leases brought in $245 million of much-needed income to family farms and ranch owners.
• For U.S. workers, wind supports 25,000 jobs in Texas and 102,500 in all 50 states. The Department of Energy projects that can grow to 600,000 U.S. jobs by 2050. Today, America’s fastest-growing job is wind-turbine technician.
• For U.S. manufacturing, wind is helping rebuild America’s industrial base. Some 25 percent of wind jobs are in the supply chain, including 25,000 manufacturing jobs in industries such as steel, which is 80 percent of all wind turbines and towers.
• For U.S. ratepayers, the Department of Energy reports that wind will save Americans nearly $150 billion on their electric bills by 2050.
• For U.S. states, utilities like MidAmerican and Xcel have made long-term commitments to wind. In the 50 state energy markets, policymakers, utilities and ratepayers are listening to the marketplace and voting for wind.
• For U.S. businesses and investors, the economics are a no-brainer. Smart money is doubling down on wind. Advanced forecasting and smart data let wind contracts lock in costs for 25 years or more – like a fixed-rate mortgage – for long-term security. No wonder Fortune 500 firms like Amazon, Google, Home Depot, Microsoft and Walmart invest in wind. In Texas, GM will power its Arlington assembly plant with 100 percent wind by 2018.
The case for wind is compelling. Wind power is making America great – today.
To build a stronger future with more jobs and growth, a smart U.S. infrastructure plan would extend transmission lines as well as repave roads and bridges. Connecting more Americans to cheap wind power will strengthen the nation’s “all-of-the-above” strategy for energy independence. Americans are united on wind. Just ask Georgetown.
Brown is chairman of the board of the American Wind Energy Association and president of Vestas-American Wind Technology, Vestas’ North American business unit.