Megawatt Madness: Top picks for wind energy for the Southeast

Cast your votes for Megawatt Madness here:

This blog is part of the Southern Wind Energy Association’s Windy Wednesday series leading up to the wind energy industry’s largest annual event, WINDPOWER 2016, being hosted in New Orleans May 23-26. Registration and details available here. You can read the other blogs in this series by clicking on #WindyWednesday

This week, March Madness kicks off as college basketball teams across the country prepare for the biggest tournament of the year. Starting tomorrow, 64 teams will compete, but only one will take down the net. As you make your picks and finalize your bracket, we have another March Madness competition to bring to your attention: Megawatt Madness! Iberdrola Renewables launched the second annual Megawatt Madness tournament, which highlights 64 of their renewable energy sites across the county.

Here are the Southern Wind Energy Association’s top picks in the Megawatt Madness tournament that highlight key benefits for our region:

Streator Cayuga Ridge South – Illinois:

You can vote for this wind farm here:

The Streator Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm is located in northern Illinois and began generating power in March 2010. This project contains 150 wind turbines with a total of 300 MW, generating enough electricity to power 79,000 homes a year! While Streator Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm provides many economic benefits to the local community, our Southeastern region is benefiting from the power the wind farm generates. The Tennessee Vally Authority (TVA), which provides electricity to seven Southeastern states, purchased the power from the Streator Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm to deliver to their customers. This is one of nine wind energy contracts TVA has obtained, totaling to over 1,500 MW of energy.

This follows a trend of purchasing wind energy from the Plains with Alabama Power and Georgia Power making similar contract agreements to bring cost-effective wind energy into the region. Currently, Southeastern utilties have purchased over 3,000 MW of wind imports delivered to our region. If purchased electricity for wind energy remains low cost and accessible via transmission, we should expect to see additional agreements from our region in the near future.

Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East- North Carolina:

This wind farm has made it to the second round of Megawatt Madness!

Moving over to the South region of the Megawatt Madness bracket, our top pick is the Amazon Wind Farm, currently under construction in North Carolina. The 102 turbines project will generate as much electricity as the equivalent of 61,000 homes. Amazon, the online retail giant, will purchase the power to run its “future and current” data centers.

The Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East is located near Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and will be located predominately throughout agricultural land. Farmers voluntarily agreed to wind turbine placements on their property and will be paid leases and will likely only use 1-2 acres of farmland per wind turbine.

The Amazon Wind Farm would be the first large-scale wind farm in North Carolina. In the last five years, wind turbine technology has greatly evolved and is now more suitable across the Southeast. Taller turbines and longer blades are capable of capturing more wind, which results in generating more electricity and reducing costs.

Iberdrola Renewables’ Office – Washington, DC:

While one of our top picks, the DC office was defeated by Hoosac Wind Farm in the first round.

Our last pick is not a wind farm site, but a key location to advocate for more wind power in the Southeast. Strong clean energy policies created in D.C. are crucial to driving the wind industry. In the past, the wind industry has experienced policy instability with the Production Tax Credit (PTC), a key tax incentive that has helped spur innovation in wind power technology and reduce the cost. In December of 2015, thanks to many industry leaders including Iberdrola Renewables, Congress passed a multi-year extension of the PTC. The PTC will be extended for 2015 and 2016, and continue at 80 percent of present value in 2017, 60 percent in 2018, and 40 percent in 2019. This long-term support for renewable energy should result in rapid growth of wind energy across the country. We hope to see new projects making their way to the Southeast!

However, the work in D.C. is far from done. Another huge driver for wind energy is EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the most ambitious climate policy in U.S. history. In early February, the Supreme Court placed a hold on the Clean Power Plan by implementing a stay. This is a key policy we will continue to track that would ultimately provide clean energy solutions to meet our region’s energy needs and help keep customer costs down.

Round 2 in Megawatt Madness is already underway, so we encourage you to get in there and cast your votes! Then, use the hashtag #IR64 on social media to voice your support for your sites and explain your picks.

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