A new market report by the American Wind Energy Association shows that 2016 was a record breaker for the wind industry. And signs are pointing to an equally aggressive 2017. With a total of 8,203 MW of wind energy capacity commissioned during the year, the majority of projects were completed in the last three months. The United States now contains more than 82,000 megawatts of wind power. That’s enough power for the equivalent of roughly 25 million homes.
This wind farm is a monumental step not just for North Carolina, but for the entire Southeast. There is only one other wind farm in the south, Invenergy’s Buffalo Mountain Wind Energy Center in Tennessee. With so few wind farms operating in the region, wind power remains a fairly unfamiliar resource. That makes it easier for anti-wind energy activists to spread misinformation and nonsense. But as people begin to see the positive effects of wind power in their community, it becomes obvious that wind power is a winner. Studies suggests that states with more wind farms boast more public support for wind energy.As more wind farms are developed throughout the South, public acceptance will continue to increase.
Every so often, amidst partisan rancor, a glimmer of hope emerges where both sides want the same thing. In these rare instances, it’s an opportunity for all of those legislators who came to Washington to get things done to really get to work.
This just happened with infrastructure, and electricity transmission in particular.
The project is estimated to cost a mere 3 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s comparable to the price of operating a modern natural gas power plant, making wind not only cost-effective but a guaranteed low-cost electricity source for decades in the future. Because there is no fuel cost associated with wind energy, utilities can secure long-term contracts (approximately 20-25 years) and lock in prices that protect their customers from price spikes due to volatility in fossil fuel costs. TVA could also receive additional benefits by acting as a pass-through transmission provider for other utilities purchasing wind energy, and earn additional revenue. For the TVA system, the project is estimated to actually reduce overall costs by about $1.44 per megawatt hour.
The Amazon Wind Farm is the first large-scale wind farm in North Carolina, and is located predominately in farm land. The wind developer, Avagrid, has gone through more than six years of federal, state, and local permitting, review, studies and construction. In an eleventh-hour attempt to kill the project, a small group of anti-wind power North Carolina legislators claim even more red tape is necessary, because they claim a wind farm could interfere with a radar installation in Virginia.
The first-ever lease sale for offshore wind off the Carolinas’ coast has been scheduled for March 16, 2017. The lease sale will allow interested development companies to bid on the rights to site assessment activities to gauge the suitability of the area for offshore wind development. The area to be leased is known as the Kitty Hawk leasing area, and lies approximately 24 nautical miles off of North Carolina’s coast (depicted in orange in the map to the right). This announcement follows the identification of the area in August 2014 and the proposal of the sale last August. Development of offshore wind could bring substantial benefits to North Carolina.
The new study highlights the beneficial job and economic development impacts associated with the proposed power line. According to the study, the Southern Cross Transmission project will provide significant economic benefits within Louisiana, and Mississippi, including $3.9 billion in total direct, indirect, induced and fiscal economic impact. The benefits primarily stem from construction, potential local tax revenue, and operations. Notably, the benefits from low-cost wind power associated with the transmission project were not included in the analysis, suggesting a conservative analysis.
Overall, wind energy does not cause population level threats to birds and accounts for an extremely small percentage of unnatural avian mortality. A study in Energy Policy, found that fossil-fueled power plants, on a per unit of energy basis, are estimated to kill 17 times more birds than wind energy. So for every megawatt hour of electricity from a wind farm that replaces fossil fuels, seventeen times as many birds may be saved.
Wind power is wildly popular. But, wind power hasn’t been as quick to catch on here in the south, so we get a lot of questions and comments about wind energy. Let’s clear the air on wind farms.
On November 29th, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, you can join others around the country and encourage spending with a purpose. Be part of the movement to change the way we produce and consume energy in the Southeast by supporting the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.