As we close the books on the 2010’s, it’s a good time to take stock of an incredible decade for American wind power. From humble beginnings at the start of the decade, U.S. wind energy grew into a 50-state industry that plays a major role in supplying affordable, reliable, clean energy for millions of families and businesses.
Here are 10 trends that show just how far we’ve come:
Wind provides over 7 percent of U.S. electricity, over 20 percent in six states
Wind power became an integral component of the U.S. electric sector during the decade, growing more than two-fold from just 2 percent of annual electricity generation to over 7 percent. The growth of wind power was even more pronounced in certain states. In 2010, only two states, Iowa and North Dakota, generated more than 10 percent of their electricity using wind power. By 2019, wind penetration exceeded 10 percent in 14 states, while six states generated more than 20 percent of their electricity from wind power. Today the U.S. has enough installed wind capacity to power over 30 million homes.
Wind delivers over 100,000 U.S. jobs
The U.S. wind industry has been a bright spot in the economy when it comes to job creation and domestic manufacturing. This 50-state industry counts over 500 domestic manufacturing facilities and crossed the 100,000 American job threshold in 2016. In fact, the second fastest growing job in the country is the wind turbine technician. And with offshore wind just taking off and unprecedented levels of wind power being installed, the next decade promise even larger contributions to the U.S. economy.
Offshore wind power debut
The first offshore wind project in the U.S. began operating in late 2016. The five-turbine, 30 megawatt (MW) Block Island wind farm is located three miles off the coast of Rhode Island, near Block Island. From this humble beginning and spurred on by state policy leadership, activity in the U.S. offshore wind market has exploded. By the end of 2019, East Coast states had established offshore wind targets totaling over 25 gigawatts (GW) and had already executed solicitations for over 6 GW. And this is just the beginning.
Wind costs fall to historic lows
Thanks to a decade of innovation, technology improvements, operations and maintenance advancements, and workforce development wind power is now the cheapest source of new power in many parts of the country and is increasingly competitive compared to existing power plants. Wind power now ranges from $28-$54/megawatt hour (MWh), depending on the region and wind resource.
Iowa becomes first state to generate over 30 percent of its electricity using wind
Iowa has always been a pioneering state when it comes to wind and renewable energy. In the 1980’s it became the first state to establish a renewable portfolio standard and by 2010 it was generating 16 percent of its electricity from wind power. Continuing that legacy, Iowa became the first state to generate more than 30 percent of its electricity from wind in 2015 and is on track to become the first to eclipse 40 percent. Kansas has also joined Iowa by surpassing 30% wind-generated electricity.
Congress provides era of business stability
In December 2015, Congress enacted a five-year extension of the product tax credit (PTC). This long-term extension of the PTC provided an unprecedented era of business stability that spurred tens of billions of dollars of investment in U.S. infrastructure.
States demonstrate clean energy leadership
Iowa may have instituted the first renewable portfolio standard, but Hawaii was the first to take it to another level, setting a goal for 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. Since Hawaii set the high water mark in 2015, five states– California, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Washington and the District of Columbia– have legislated 100 percent clean or renewable energy standards.
Wind turbines are twice as productive
Advancements in wind turbine technology have been at the forefront of wind’s falling costs and increased reliability. Improvements in performance and increases in wind turbine size means that wind turbines deployed at the end of the decade can generate more than two times the amount of electricity as those built in 2010. A typical turbine now generates enough electricity to power over 900 homes.
Wind spurs a renaissance in rural America
Over 99 percent of wind projects are built in rural areas, and they’re bringing unmatched investment into these communities. Wind projects pay over $1 billion a year in state and local taxes and landowner lease payments. This gives local communities substantial new revenue to fix roads, invest in schools and fund emergency services while creating well-paying jobs that attract young people. Land lease payments also offer family farmers and ranchers a stable income source that helps them weather challenges like droughts or falling crop prices.
Wind begins powering American businesses
Last decade saw the emergence of an especially exciting trend – America’s companies looking directly to wind power to meet their electricity needs. The ability to lock in a fixed rate over a long time horizon, coupled with wind’s clean energy benefits, made the choice an easy one, and the trend took off. Today, over 144 American businesses have contracts in place for over 15 gigawatts of wind to power their energy needs. The future is even brighter as Corporate and Industrial customers are expected to buy an additional 85 gigawatts of renewable power by 2030.