Red States Are Leading the Wind Energy Charge

Illustration for article titled Red States Are Leading the Wind Energy Charge
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Republicans may be lukewarm on climate policy, but they’re all about that wind energy, according to a report on the state of wind power in the U.S. released Tuesday by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).


Overall, Texas is the largest wind producer in the country. The five states that got the largest share of their power from wind are all led by Republicans and broke for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. They include Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, which all got more than 30 percent of their electricity from wind turbines.

That’s well above the nation as a whole, which got 6.3 percent of its energy from wind in 2017 (enough to power 27 million homes, according to AWEA). There are a couple of reasons states like Iowa, Kansas, and the rest of their neighbors are so far ahead of the curve.

The first is there’s a lot of wind on the Plains. If you’ve seen the musical Oklahoma, you know what I’m talking about.

Second, technology is improving. Turbines are getting bigger (like way bigger),which allows them to turn more wind into more energy more regularly.

The third is economics. It has never been cheaper to install a new wind power plant. According to AWEA, the cost of wind power has dropped by 67 percent since 2009.

It’s this combination of factors that explain why Texas gets more wind power than coal power, and why companies with vast power needs are financing wind projects in these regions. Google, Apple, and Facebook all have data centers currently operating in the Plains, or under construction where wind can provide most or all of the energy needs. Amazon is plowing money into wind farms in Ohio.


If the Trump administration has shown us anything, it’s that environmentalism occupies a diminishing place in the modern Republican party’s platform. But money still talks. And wind, with its falling costs and estimated 105,500 workers, is clearly an economic winner.

“American wind power reached new heights for energy generated and U.S. jobs in 2017,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, said in a statement. “And don’t be surprised when the industry continues to break records.”


That’s not to say there’s not still work to be done. In fact, with climate change, there’s a lot of work to be done to keep the planet in habitable shape.

The U.S. has barely dipped its toes in its offshore wind potential. And while red states are crushing it on the wind front, Republican-controlled Washington has made some iffy renewable energy moves (to say nothing of the Trump administration’s statements). That’s opened the door for China to step in and lead the clean energy race that will define the 21st century.


Managing editor, Earther


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Brian, you should post this every day. Wind is killing it.

Most importantly, farmers in the great plains and Midwest love it. Even more importantly, the corn and soybean belt may get screwed with ethanol blending requirements and/or a trade war. Wind power on farmland is a nice income.

Cool government data. NREL has a wind prospector interactive that is truly awesome. Here’s an example

The colors are wind class from three to seven. Clases 1 and 2 aren’t windy enough to support wind power economics. As Brian said, the great plans is pretty awesome. It’s the offshore wind (only east coast shown) that is the motherload.

Here’s the class table for 10 and 50 meters. Most new windmills nowadays are closer to 80 meters in height - thus more wind.

Just screwing around with numbers. 50/50 chance of being correct.

Let’s see how much wind is in Kansas. There’s 200 billion square meters of land in Kansas. Let’s assume 1/2 percent of Kansas land is used for wind power or 1 billion square meters. Let’s assume the power density is 400 W/m2 (from above). That’s 400 W/m2 x 1 billion m2 = 400 billion watts or 400 gigawatts.

For further shits and giggles, let’s assume a 40% capacity factor for Kansas wind. So 400 GW of wind over a year would be 1.4 million gigawatt hours (GWh). The entire US generates 4 million GWh of electricity per year.

So given this silliness - a half percent of Kansas land could generate a quarter of US electricity needs. (batteries not included)