Despite Big Coal Pushback, Wind Power Just Getting Started

March 9, 2018

The Koch Brothers and their allies in Big Coal have an aggressive effort deployed to slow down the deployment of renewable energy across the heartland, but the fact is, the good people of Middle America know we need to move to clean energy, and they don’t mind the financial benefits, either.

Cedar Rapids Gazette (Iowa):

On its quest for 100 percent renewable energy, MidAmerican Energy has announced the completion of its two latest wind farms, which add to the state’s growing wind energy generation.

The Beaver Creek wind farm in Boone and Greene counties and Prairie wind farm in Mahaska County have begun operation, according to a Monday news release. The two farms, which amount to 169 wind turbines, add 338 megawatts of wind generation capacity to MidAmerican Energy’s grid.

“We’re committed to providing reliable service and outstanding value to our customers, and wind energy accomplishes both,” Mike Fehr, vice president of resource development at MidAmerican Energy, said in the release. “Wind energy is good for our customers, and it’s an abundant, renewable resource that also energizes the economy.”

All told, MidAmerican owns and operates more than 2,000 turbines, making it the largest owner of wind-powered generation among U.S. rate-regulated energy providers, the release states.

The projects are part of MidAmerican’s $3.6 billion, 2,000-megawatt Wind XI project, which is expected to be finished by the close of 2019.

A third site for the Wind XI project, a North English wind farm in Poweshiek County, will be completed next year and add another 340 MW to the grid.

By the end of 2020, MidAmerican expects to produce up to 95 percent of the annual power consumption of its customers with wind. Utility officials eventually hope to reach 100 percent.

Roger Johnson is President of the National Farmers Union, in the Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa):

New Energy America recently highlighted a clean energy strategy for Rural America in 2018. We show how clean energy jobs are impacting rural America. Iowa, for example, already gets 37 percent of its power from wind. As Iowa’s Republican Governor Kim Reynolds pointed out last year, “[i]n Texas, South Dakota and Idaho, wind power makes up anywhere from 12 to 30 percent of electricity generated. Industry data shows these Republican-led states have added more than 36,000 jobs in wind (and solar) and more than $45 billion in economic activity.” And that activity hits close to home. As Reynolds notes, “more than two-thirds of the United States’ wind energy is produced in states that voted for Trump in November.” Reynolds is certainly no wild-eyed liberal. She just gets what clean energy does for her voters.

The report also notes public opinion research which shows that Americans overwhelming want more clean energy. Expanding wind and solar is supported by 89 percent and 82 percent of Americans, and 82 percent of Americans support federal funding into renewable energy research. A study based on a NFU poll shows that 70 percent of rural voters are more likely to support a pro-RFS candidate by a two to one margin. Rural Americans want these policies because they know the future of our rural economy will depend in large part on growing this industry.

There is no reason for candidates to be shy about a clean energy in rural states. Members of the National Farmers Union are well aware of the role we play in creating homegrown biofuels that reduce emissions and our dependence on foreign oil. Wind energy is creating new opportunities for farmers and our neighbors who work in construction. And we’ve seen solar projects of all sizes power our farms and put our children and relatives to work. While some in Washington rush to embrace coal and big oil, heartland voters know our future is with biofuels, wind and solar. These voters will not be kind if programs like the ITC or PTC are scaled back, or if the RFS is weakened to appease private equity owned refiners on the East Coast. We’re watching and will hold the politicians accountable.

Popular Mechanics:

This result comes from an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which just published its 2018 edition of the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. The analysis details the amount of energy produced by different sources in the country and is a good look at how renewable energy industries are faring, particularly after a year under an openly hostile presidential administration.

According to the analysis, renewable energy now accounts for approximately 18 percent of U.S. energy sources, up from 15 percent last year. Most of this growth comes from hydro sources, which have been rebounding now that droughts in the Southwest have diminished. In total, renewable sources generated 717 terawatt-hours of energy in 2017, an increase of 89 terawatt-hours over last year.

To put these numbers in perspective, nuclear power currently generates 20 percent of all U.S. energy, which means renewable sources, when taken all together, are on the verge of eclipsing nuclear. If these current growth rates hold steady, that should happen this year or the next, at which point renewable energy would become the third-largest source of energy in the United States.

Another positive piece of news for renewable energy is that the price of lithium-ion batteries is falling. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are approximately 23 percent cheaper than they were a year ago, according to the Bloomberg report, and this lower cost means energy storage facilities are much cheaper to build. This, in turn, makes solar and wind projects more attractive because utilities can be less concerned about whether those projects will be generating energy at any given moment.

All together, this report indicates that the American renewable energy industry is continuing to flourish. Maybe there’s hope for the future of this planet after all.



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