This past Saturday, I watched as a gust of wind snapped a 70-foot pine tree like a toothpick—and sent it flailing, bringing down a tangle of power lines. The recent Northeaster in Westchester County, N.Y., gave new meaning to the words “wind power,” the subject of a recent story on the Smarter Planet Web site. Except the wind is supposed to create the power, not snuff it out!
Wind is the fastest growing source of energy in the United States, with a 39% increase in installed capacity this past year. The U.S. has the largest installed capacity in the world, followed by Germany and China. But this may not be for long as countries around the world make green energy an environmental and economic priority.
For example, Denmark, with 20% of its power coming from wind, is working to advance its grid to be able to power electric cars with wind.
China has the most aggressive renewable energy deployment in the world, according to ClimateWorks. It has six immense wind power projects under construction, dwarfing any project anywhere else in the world. Government mandates, available funding and relatively light regulation provide some of the impetus for this surge in growth.
Top ten wind turbine manufacturers by megawatts installed in 2009
|4.||GE Energy (Germany/U.S.)||15,000|
Today, only one of the top 10 wind turbine manufacturers is located in the U.S. But momentum is growing. Last week, leading wind energy industry executives—and this week, a group of 29 bipartisan state governors—called on Congress to pass a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES).
Currently 29 states have such a standard, but a pan-American standard is needed for the infrastructure to reach its full potential. Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which requires overall renewable energy and efficiency to provide 6% of power in 2012, rising to 20% in 2020.
However, the recommendations of the House bill still need to be taken forward through the Senate before they can gain the President’s signature and become law.
“We have the potential for explosive growth if we can get long term support. A national RES will result not just in new installations, but also in new manufacturing,” said Denise Bode, CEO, American Wind Energy Association. And that translates into jobs. If we can develop a full-fledged wind power industry in the U.S., the benefits are twofold: cleaner, greener energy for the long term and a new industry and more jobs for now.