Highlights from AWEA’s 2015 Annual Market Report

This post originally appeared on Smart Brief’s Smart Blog and is authored by Bryan McBournie

American Wind Energy Association today released its US Wind Industry Annual Market Report 2015. AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan sat down with SmartBrief to discuss some of the highlights of the report.

Why should the average American support wind energy?
Most Americans strongly favor wind power because it’s clean, it’s cheaper than ever and it’s an inexhaustible source of energy we can make right here in America.

Across rural America where most of our wind farms and factories are located, they also appreciate that wind energy creates jobs, so their sons and daughters have a new option to find a job close to home, and that it helps pay for things like roads, classrooms and ambulances.

The news today is that jobs in wind power grew 20% last year. That’s 88,000 well-paying jobs, including 21,000 at over 500 factories in 43 states. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says wind turbine technician is now the country’s fastest growing job, and that’s expected to increase 108% over the next 10 years.

With long-term, stable policy and with our broader range of customers we believe we can get that up to 380,000 jobs by 2030.

With cost declines of 66% over the last six years, our product is on sale for two-thirds off, too. That’s thanks to better technology, nearby manufacturing, and over 30 years of experience in siting and maintaining the turbines.

Consumers in the 10 states with the most renewable energy pay less on their electricity bills than the 10 states with the least amount of renewables. Through 2050, if we continue to grow, wind could save $149 billion on electric bills for American families and businesses.

Wind also cuts huge amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, harmful pollutants that cause smog and trigger asthma attacks. In 2015 alone, this saved $7.3 billion on public health costs.

What was the biggest success story for wind energy in 2015?

Wind energy was the largest source of new electric generating capacity that came online in 2015, at 41% of the market – that’s more than solar or natural gas.

There’s now enough in the US to power 19 million American homes, and the US is number in the world in production, beating out its next closest competitors, China and Germany.

How has the multi-year Production Tax Credit extension affected the industry so far?

The bipartisan decision by Congress to pass a multi-year extension of the Production Tax Credit gives us the long-term policy certainty to keep our American success story going.

Iowa now generates over 31% of its electricity from wind, and in a dozen states wind now supplies at least 10%. With stable policy in place we’ll be able to continue lowering our costs and stay on the path to supply 20% of US electricity by 2030.

How is offshore wind energy progressing in the US?

We saw significant progress in 2015. The country’s first offshore project, Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm, off the coast of Rhode Island, began construction last year and should be running by the end of 2016.

Another 13 projects in 10 states are in various stages of development, on both coasts and in the Great Lakes. Companies with long, successful histories of developing projects in Europe are showing strong interest in the US market, including DONG Energy and Renexia.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has also identified several “Wind Energy Areas” and held a number of auctions for leases in several states.

What’s the biggest challenge facing the industry this year?

To tap into America’s full wind power potential, we need to keep modernizing the US electricity grid. We also need to improve our transmission infrastructure, so we can get reliable, affordable wind power from wind-rich locations to the cities and towns where demand for energy is highest.

The Energy Department took a step in that direction last month, when it approved the Clean Line Plains and Eastern Line transmission project. That will deliver 4,000 megawatts of clean energy from the Oklahoma panhandle to customers throughout the Southeast.

More such projects are needed to save consumers even more money. For example, the Southwest Power Pool, which manages the grid in 14 states in the central US, found power line upgrades from 2012 to 2014 provided nearly $600 million in benefits just in the first year. That’s almost $2 million per day.

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