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April 20, 2010

Embracing Renewables

Guest Entry by: Branden Grubb; Energy Intern

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently released their “U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report.” Here are some highlights from the report:

· Last year the industry set new records, installing more than 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind power generating facilities, enough to power 2.4 million homes - the equivalent of the amount of electricity manufactured by three large nuclear power plants.  

· Fourteen states were in the “Gigawatt Club” with more than 1,000 MW of installed wind capacity.  

· Iowa leads the way, deriving 14% of their energy from wind and has the highest number of jobs in the manufacturing sector. 

· In 2008, wind energy constituted for 93% of installed renewable electricity, allowing the United States to surpass Germany as the world leader in installed wind capacity.


In order to maintain the current progress that is being made in the wind industry, (the fastest-growing source of power on the planet) Congress needs to pass a strong federal renewable energy standard (RES). According to the Department of Energy, generating 20 percent of U.S. power from the wind would create more than 800,000 clean energy jobs. 

Renewable energy standards have a proven track record at the state level of sparking renewable energy development and creating jobs.  Many states have strengthened their initial standards. Colorado has now raised their standard for the second time based on their ongoing economic success in renewable energy.  Utilities in the state must now get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources, rising to 30 percent by 2020. Such a standard would save seven billion gallons of water, reduce CO2 emissions by 30 million tons, and will create more than 33,500 jobs in the solar sector alone.

With a strong RES, states all across the country could reap the benefits of renewable energy development.  Many fear that certain regions, like the Southeast though, would not be able to meet a federal RES.  This fear is unfounded.  It is apparent that the southeastern U.S. has the renewable energy resources to meet the federal RES proposals that are now being considered in Congress. In fact, according to a study by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Southeast can meet a national RES of at least 15 percent by 2015, 20 percent by 2020, and as much as 25 percent by 2025.  Such a standard would greatly stimulate southern economies and create a demand for skilled trades and professional careers.  In fact, recently in Mississippi, plans were approved to create over 500 jobs by creating a new solar panel manufacturing company, and in Arkansas over 400 jobs are to be created in the wind industry thanks to Mitsubishi Power Systems. Without a national RES, however, we will fall behind Europe and China in the global clean energy race.

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