Wind Nets Gains in Energy Production

Wind Nets Gains in Energy Production

New wind farms in Iowa, Minnesota, Texas, and Wyoming helped boost U.S. wind-generating capacity 29% in just one year, according to a recent Worldwatch Institute report -- giving wind power new force on the national energy scene.

According to the report, wind energy production in farming and ranching states jumped from 1,928 megawatts in 1998 to 2,490 megawatts in 1999, largely on the strength of a precipitous drop in the cost of per kilowatt-hour of wind power. The American Wind Energy Association says that cost fell from 38 cents in the early 1980s to three to six cents today.

"It is like striking oil, except that the wind is never depleted," said Worldwatch chair Lester Brown.

State perspective

State governments take note of the economic appeal of renewable energy: Minnesota requires that its largest utility install 425 megawatts of wind-generating capacity by 2002; Texas calls for 2,000 megawatts of generating capacity from all renewable sources by 2009, with most of it expected to come from wind power.

At the federal level, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson is requiring that 7.5% of the electricity used by the Department of Energy come from renewable sources (excluding hydropower) by 2010.

Worldwide trends

With the addition of more than 3,600 megawatts in 1999, wind power worldwide expanded by 36% over the previous year, bringing total installed capacity to 13,400 megawatts, according to Worldwatch.

The report cites these figures, showing wind's influence abroad:
  • Denmark derives 10% of its electricity from wind.
  • Germany's northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein, derives 14% of its electricity from wind.
  • Spain's northern industrial province Navarra gets 23% of its electric power from wind -- where just four years ago there was no wind-generated electricity.
  • China's first wind farm in Inner Mongolia is believed sufficient to double China's total electricity generation.
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