By Greg Alvarez
American Wind Energy Association
As we close the book on 2016, let’s take stock of where wind power stands and reflect on some of the year’s biggest trends.
Here’s what really stuck out to us here at AWEA:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the occupation will grow by 108 percent over the next decade. That blows past the second fastest growing job, occupational therapy assistant, projected to grow by 42 percent in the same time frame. Overall, wind power supported 88,000 well-paying jobs at the start of 2016 in all 50 states. 21,000 of these are manufacturing jobs at more than 500 factories that build wind turbines and parts for them.
2. States really wanted more wind power.
Across the country, a number of state governments strengthened their renewable portfolio standards (RPS). These actions will bring more low-cost, clean wind energy to millions of families and businesses. Oregon started the trend in February, upping it RPS to 50 percent. Rhode Island, New York, Washington, D.C. and Michigan all followed suit over the course of 2016. Massachusetts also passed an important bill that will spur offshore wind development and add other renewables to the state’s energy mix. Here’s a full picture of nationwide RPSs.
3. Fortune 500 companies thirsted for more wind power too.
A few notable examples:
- Google announced renewables will meet 100 percent of its worldwide energy needs in 2017. Wind will supply 95 percent of that electricity.
- Microsoft made its largest wind purchase ever.
- GM pledged to move toward 100 percent renewable energy, and bought enough wind power to make 1,100 SUVs a day at its Arlington, Texas factory.
The rationale for these purchases? They’re good for bottom lines.
“(W)ind costs have gone down in the last three or four years to the point where they are the lowest-cost source of power on the grid,” said Rob Threlkeld, GM’s global manager of renewable energy.
4. Americans love wind power.
Poll after poll showed strong bipartisan support for wind energy growth. 83 percent of Americans want to see more wind, according to a recent Pew poll, just one data point among many that all confirmed wind’s popularity crosses both geographical and political lines.
5. Wind growth continued, supplying an even greater share of the country’s electricity.
There’s now enough wind energy in the U.S. to power 20 million homes, or 75 gigawatts of total installed capacity. Iowa continues to lead the way, where wind now generates 35 percent of the state’s electricity. Oklahoma joined Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota as states creating at least 20 percent of their electricity using wind. Overall, a dozen states stand at 10 percent or more.
6. Offshore wind power came to the U.S.
Deepwater Wind’s Block Island wind farm came online at the end of 2016, ushering in a new era of American power generation. Another 13 offshore projects on both coasts and in the Great Lakes remain in various stages of development. Just this month, an offshore wind development parcel off the coast of Long Island fetched a record-shattering $42 million bid at auction.