In the last five years, wind power delivered 30% of all new capacity installed in the United States and is now the leading renewable resource, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s annual 2016 report.
Both Iowa and South Dakota get more than 30% of their power from wind, while North Dakota, Oklahoma and Kansas each produce more than 20%.
Though offshore wind is now a reality, with the Block Island facility off Rhode Island beginning to generate power, the majority of investment is in the Great Plains region. According to Midwest Energy News, the Plains, Midwest and Texas accounted for almost 90% of wind investment in the United States last year.
It’s no secret that wind energy is growing quickly. Texas now has more than 20,000 MW of capacity and Oklahoma just this week eliminated a wind tax credit—because it was no longer needed, stakeholders claim. The resource surpassed hydroelectricity in installed capacity last year, and there are now 52,000 wind turbines operating in the country.
All told, the U.S., Puerto Rico and Guam have nameplate capacity of 82,143 MW of nameplate wind capacity, according to AWEA. And the industry employs more than 100,000 workers.
“Strong wind construction activity throughout the year, combined with a strengthening wind manufacturing sector and growing need for personnel … allowed the industry to add nearly 15,000 full-time equivalent jobs in 2016,” AWEA concluded.
The report says “wind turbine technician” is the fastest growing job in the co?untry.
The wind energy has also benefited from corporate America’s interest in green power and sustainability: According to AWEA, Fortune 500 companies, electric utilities, and others signed 47 power purchase agreements totaling more than 4,000 MW during 2016. “In doing so, they cited the declining costs and stable price of wind power as factors,” the group said. Long-term from utilities filed in the last two years have laid out plans for at least 14,000 MW in wind power additions.
Block Island, offshore Rhode Island, is a likely sign of where the wind industry is heading: The U.S.’s first commercial offshore wind farm began operating in December offshore Rhode Island. The 30 MW project will replace the community’s diesel generation and excess power is sent to the mainland via an undersea cable.
Block Island is small, however, in terms of offshore wind. A legislative mandate for 1,600 MW of offshore wind in Massachusetts is expected to build important scale for the industry, allowing more of a toehold in U.S. markets.