With the majority of 2016 now in the books, it’s time to pause and take stock of where things stand. Today, a homegrown industry is achieving milestones that seemed far-fetched just a few years ago.
Wind Becomes Critical to State Electricity Mixes
The greatest news so far this year is probably that Iowa has yet another wind power record: it generated over 35 percent of its electricity using wind from August 2015 through August 2016, making Iowa the first state to generate over a third of its electricity using wind.
Additionally, there is more on the way. Large new projects from companies like MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy may push Iowa past 40 percent wind-generated electricity.
When it comes to wind power growth, Iowa isn’t alone. Over the same August 2015 to August 2016 time frame, Oklahoma joined Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota as states generated at least 20 percent of their electricity using wind, while North Dakota followed behind just a hair short.
Currently, there are over 20,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity either under construction or in advanced development. To fully grasp how significant this number is, the current U.S. wind fleet stands at 75,716 MW. This is enough to power 20 million typical American homes.
In addition, there are more wind projects in the pipeline as well. So far, the volume of megawatts contracted through power purchase agreements (PPAs) this year are up 39 percent over the same point in time last year, and a third of the megawatts to date have been signed by non-utility buyers like Johnson & Johnson, Amazon and Target.
This means there will soon be more low-cost, clean wind power available to millions of U.S. families and businesses, and it will help them keep more money in their pockets. For instance, Iowa has the ninth lowest electricity rates in the country, sitting 36 percent below the national average. And, by continuing to grow wind in their state, Iowans could save $500 million on their electric bills, according to a recent report.
Wind Growth Means Resource Growth
This abundance of wind development in recent years is bringing new financial resources to communities across the country, and it is often going to areas where it is needed the most.
Wind in Iowa has created $12 billion of private investment, supports up to 7,000 jobs and pays landowners between $15 and $20 million every year for hosting turbines on their property. Also, more than two-thirds of the operating installed capacity is located in low-income counties. These numbers are why some have dubbed wind “the new corn” for America’s agricultural community.
One Thing We Can Agree On
With these kinds of benefits, it is not surprising that polls find Americans of all strips support wind energy growth. According to a recent poll, over 90 percent of likely voters support increasing the nation’s share of wind power, and that includes over 80 percent of self-described conservatives.
And despite their geographical and cultural diversity, results are similar from New York to Texas. According to a Nature Conservancy poll, 89 percent of New Yorkers wanted more wind energy, while another survey found support for wind among 85 percent of respondents in Texas. And then there’s states like Iowa, where residents know as much about wind as anyone, given the state has the most wind by land area of any state in the country. In a survey of Third District residents, over 90 percent of respondents support wind energy. These results are truly remarkable in today’s day and age.
Challenges do remain on the road ahead, a big one among them making sure we build the necessary transmission and grid updates to give more Americans access to clean, low-cost power. Studies have shown these efforts more than pay for themselves and provider a number of benefits to the grid.
Wind power in America is healthy and on track for another highly successful year heading into 2017, and that’s something we can all be proud of.
MAS Field Services is a field service company within the energy industry eager to be a part of the ever expanding goal of American energy independence. Whether it’s title for minerals on an oil and gas or solar project, leasing large acreage for a wind farm, or obtaining right of ways for long haul transmission and pipelines, MAS can get the right people in the right place. We are excited to tap the local oil and gas reserves needed to keep our way of life moving forward, capture the overwhelming wind and solar resources on local soil needed to help power America, and tackle the challenge of bringing those resources from production to consumption. Contact us with the link below for more information!