Renewable energy continues to grow year after year in America, which is crucial in the fight against global warming. But one specific type of renewable has come to stand head and shoulders above the rest: wind. The wind energy industry is growing rapidly, to the extent that wind is now the dominant source of renewable energy in the United States. It has now surpassed hydroelectric power as a renewable energy source.
According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind energy generated roughly 300 million megawatt hours (MWh) in 2019. Hydroelectric power came in second among renewable energy sources at just over 270 million MWh. All other sources were significantly lower.
Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), said in a statement that the wind energy industry is growing quickly.
“The past decade saw a steady increase in wind capacity across the country and we capped the decade with a monumental achievement for the industry in reaching more than 100 GW,” Kiernan said. “With all of that capacity in the ground wind projects were able to deliver 7.2 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2019. That means U.S. wind farms can power over 32 million homes from close to 60,000 wind turbines spinning across 41 states. The industry is proud to provide consumers with clean, affordable power that keeps utility costs stable and avoids carbon emissions contributing to climate change."
As the map below shows, most of the wind farms in the United States are concentrated in the center of the country, from Minnesota down to Texas.
You might think wind energy would be concentrated in mostly liberal states, but a majority of wind farms appear to be in conservative states. The same can be seen with solar energy. As Inverse reported in February, solar power is growing quickly in quite a few red states. States that were previously largely dependent on coal and other fossil fuel sources are now hooked on solar.
Though the Southeast isn't producing much wind energy, data from the AWEA shows there are plenty of wind-related manufacturing facilities in that region. Just because those states aren't producing much wind power doesn't mean they're not involved in the wind energy industry. The data shows the vast majority of states have facilities that produce wind-related parts and materials.
A Cornell University study from last month found that the United States could triple its wind power by 2030 by simply adding more wind turbines in areas where there are already wind farms. If we did that, we could get roughly 20 percent of our energy from those wind farms. That would eliminate 825 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. According to the IPCC, renewables need to produce 70 to 85 percent of our energy by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Considering the coal is industry declining, we're running out of time to stop climate change and the fact it's becoming cheaper to get energy from renewable sources than fossil fuels, it seems wind energy has a bright and important future. Even if some politicians don't believe in climate change and want to stay reliant on fossil fuels, the momentum behind renewable energy is going to be hard to stop.