With Wind Prices at a Record Low, Is the Clean Energy Revolution Upon Us?

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With Wind Prices at a Record Low, Is the Clean Energy Revolution Upon Us?

According to the Department of Energy, wind saw the most growth of any power source in the US last year

Wind turbines greet the sun. (Photo: David Clarke/cc/flickr)

With the amount of wind-generated power in the United States reaching record highs and its cost dropping to new lows, two Department of Energy reports released Monday suggest that the renewable energy revolution might be upon us.

According to the 2014 Wind Technologies Market Report, wind saw the most growth of any power source in the U.S. last year with total installed wind power capacity reaching a total of 65.9 gigawatts (GW) in 2014—enough capacity to power over 17.5 million homes.

Further, the study found, the cost of wind energy reached an all-time low last year, falling to 2.35 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), making this renewable resource competitive with so-called traditional power sources across much of the U.S.

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A second study, the 2014 Distributed Wind Market Report, found that decentralized wind energy sources has also grown to more than 906 megawatts (MW), or enough to power more than 168,000 average American homes.

Such distributed power is an important component to an updated energy system as it delivers electricity to remote homes and farms while laying the foundation for a more localized power grid, tailored to match the available resources in a given region.

The analysis found that nine states, primarily in the wind-blown Great Plains, relied on wind power for more than 12 percent of their electricity in 2014. Iowa and South Dakota produced more than a quarter of their electricity from wind, while Kansas generated roughly 22 percent. With over 14,000 MW in total capacity, Texas remained the leading state for wind installations in 2014.

The government report also highlights a number of benefits to this sort of power including "a ripple effect on the American economy." According to estimates, the wind industry currently supports 73,000 jobs related to development, siting, manufacturing, transportation, and other industries.

"With declining costs and continued technological development, these reports demonstrate that wind power is a reliable source of clean, renewable energy for American homes and businesses," said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. "Through continued investments and the help of stable policies, we’re confident that wind power will keep playing a major role in creating jobs and shaping America’s clean energy future."

The DOE reports follow an analysis by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released in June which found that in the first half of 2015, wind and solar power together accounted for 2,518 megawatts, or 65 percent, of new electricity generating capacity brought online in the U.S.

The surge in renewable resources comes despite waning federal support. The growth of the wind market was largely due to a Production Tax Credit which the Republican-led legislature allowed to expire at the end of 2014, despite widespread support. At the same time, the U.S. government is projected to spend more than $135 billion in fossil fuel subsidies over the next decade.

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