Researchers at the University of Wyoming are simulating air currents around the spinning blades of wind turbines, data that could help make wind farms more efficient. Wyoming ranks among the top states for wind energy potential and within a decade could be home to the nation’s biggest wind farm, the 1,000-turbine Chokecherry and Sierra Madre project under development by The Anschutz Corp., which traces its roots to the oil industry.
A group of state electric utility regulators tabled a resolution critical of the Department of Energy’s plan to take an ownership stake in a 720-mile interstate transmission project from the Oklahoma Panhandle to Tennessee. The move Tuesday at the winter policy meetings of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Washington was “unusual” said Elizabeth Jacobs, a member of the Iowa Utilities Board and vice chairwoman of NARUC’s Electricity Committee.
A coalition of state governors led by Gina Raimondo, Governor of Rhode Island and Sam Brownback, Governor of Kansas, have written to US President Donald Trump asking him to support offshore wind and solar energy projects. The Governors’ Wind & Solar Energy Coalition says that if the US does not continue robust federal research and development programmes in wind and solar energy, “we will cede leadership in these critical technologies to other nations that have demonstrated ongoing high priority commitments to these technologies, such as China.” The governors said: “We would also cede the resulting economic development benefits to these nations and would be importing the great majority of our wind and solar equipment from them.”
The welcome sign that greets motorists as they arrive in Sweetwater along Interstate 20, a three-hour drive west of Dallas, is not in the shape of an oil derrick or pumpjack, though: it’s a wind turbine blade bearing the town’s motto, “Life is sweet in Texas”. For ranchers facing ruin until major international companies planted forests of 300ft-tall turbines among their crops and cattle, the wind boom has provided regular income that has allowed them to maintain their land and keep it in the family. For Texas, this most Republican-dominated, oil-rich and fracking-friendly of states has found itself with the improbable status of being a national leader in this growing form of renewable energy.
Wind power is the largest source of renewable energy in the United States. But a broad swath of the country has had no large, commercial wind farms — until now. A new one with 104 towers is up and running near Elizabeth City, N.C., where it spans 22,000 acres. Horace Pritchard is one of about 60 landowners who are leasing property to the project known as the Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East. Developers say it will generate enough power for 61,000 homes per year — power that the Internet retailer Amazon has agreed to buy from the electric grid.
The letters themselves are not that big a deal — the coalition has been around for several years and sent many similar letters to Obama — but they are evidence of a robust, enduring strain of bipartisanship on this issue (one that, unlike the carbon tax, commands support from more-than-zero Republican officeholders). The difference is simple. Climate change is, to most people, entirely an abstraction, a matter of tribal positioning. Some states and cities are beginning to face practical effects of warming, and of course all of them ought to be planning for it in coming decades, but in practice, very few individuals or elected officials feel it as an immediate concern. There’s little cost to ideological posturing. Renewable energy is different. It is a burgeoning business, attracting both white collar and manufacturing jobs, channeling investment to parts of these states that haven’t seen much economic development recently, and reducing electricity rates.
The Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt on Friday to run the Environmental Protection Agency, putting a seasoned legal opponent of the agencyat the helm of President Trump’s efforts to dismantle major regulations on climate change and clean water — and to cut the size and authority of the government’s environmental enforcer.
Despite these undeniable advantages, the future of U.S. wind energy in the United States has recently been threatened by proposed legislation – at both the state and national level – to limit the amount of wind turbines that could be installed near U.S. military bases.
Exciting news came at a recent energy policy forum in Minnesota when David Saggau, CEO of Great River Energy, which provides energy to 28 electric co-ops in Minnesota, stated that he sees wind quickly becoming the new baseload. “In the past, we tended to think of our coal resources as baseload and every other resource being supplemental to that,” said Saggau. “I would suggest to you that wind is quickly becoming the new baseload; and to be viable going forward, all other sources must be flexible enough to be supplemental to the wind.”
To encourage the United States to get into the game, the Obama administration auctioned off 1 million acres of federal waters. Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and even California are exploring the resource. But the offshore wind industry, and the environmentalists and labor unions that support it, has pressed for more. It has urged states to take after Europe: to commit to a large-scale, long-term pipeline of projects. The “magic number” for that pipeline remains debated. But advocates say it was that scale that helped drive down costs in Europe and birth the industry there.