On May 29th, the largest wind energy conference in the United States will open in Anaheim, California with an estimated 20,000 participants. In 2007, a similar conference drew 5,000 participants. At the time, the cumulative U.S. installed wind capacity was 17 gigawatts. Today, the sector accounts for 2.3 percent of the country’s total energy capacity (more than 41 gigawatts).
Despite the recession and the prevailing anti-science and anti-renewables atmosphere in Congress, wind power has experienced phenomenal growth these past 4 years. What went right?
Several factors were identified:
1. Wind was chosen to supply 35 percent of new U.S. power capacity in the 4-year period after 2007.
2. The price of wind energy has consistently come down making it competitive to coal and the volatile price of natural gas.
3. State standards and policies, in the absence of a federal standards, have provided the atmosphere conducive to the sector’s growth.
4. The immense vastly untapped U.S. wind resource.
5. Non-stop research and development. The current generation of turbines are seven times larger than those used in the 1990s but they also generate fifteen times more electricity.
According to Peter L. Kelley, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Vice President for Public Affairs, the industry is on track to achieve its target of supplying twenty percent of U.S. electricity by 2030, “faster than the nuclear industry ramped up to make twenty percent of America’s electricity in the last century.”