Wind-powered libations are greatly changing the meaning of the phrase “Drink Responsibly.” Businesses are recognizing the importance of producing products with a low carbon footprint. By installing wind turbines, companies are lowering energy consumption and lowering their power bills.
Wind power is an American success story. Wind turbine component manufacturing or support facilities exist in all 50 states. Domestic content for wind farm projects is around 60%, meaning American jobs are helping build America’s domestic energy industry. In 2014, American companies exported about half a billion dollars worth of wind turbine components around the globe. A few major manufacturers here in the southern United States include General Electric’s turbine facility in Pensacola, Florida, Blade Dynamics in New Orleans, ZF Windpower in Georgia, PPG Industries in North Carolina, LM Blades in Little Rock, just to name a few.
Certainly some risk exists with wind turbines; however, the risk from wind farms appears to be less than being struck by lightning and certainly less dangerous than fossil fuels. Still, wind developers have a responsibility to ensure projects are built to meet or exceed safety standards and to benefit the local communities.
North Carolina’s Senate Bill 843 was introduced recently, and if implemented, would flush the entire renewable energy industry down the toilet.
This year may be the biggest year for wind energy in the South. A number of factors are working together to create a massive market for wind energy all across the country. Some of the important factors include: technology has significantly improved, utilities are becoming more familiar with integrating wind energy, key federal tax incentives have been renewed and utilities are beginning to hedge against risks associated with fossil fuels.
2016 is the year to act on wind power in a big way and the clock is ticking. At the end of 2015, Congress passed a long-term phaseout of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy – a key federal incentive for the industry that continues to drive down the cost of wind energy.
Finally, the WIND Toolkit helps eliminate any guesswork by wind energy advocates regarding newly proposed wind farm projects. Using the old 50 meter, 80 meter or 100 meter wind speed maps use to be the only way the public had any sense of what “good” wind resources looked like. However, those maps always proved too coarse for the average viewer to interpret accurately. Anti-wind activists frequently used outdated maps, some even dating back to the 1980s, to make a case against wind energy. The WIND Toolkit can now provide better analysis for stakeholders interested in learning more about wind energy. As a quick case study, the image below shows the results of the WIND Toolkit query compared to a 100 meter wind speed map in Northeastern North Carolina. The WIND Toolkit shows an average wind speed of approximately 7 meters-per-second (15.7 MPH), but the 100 meter wind map shows speeds of <6 m/s (13.4MPH). That 1 m/s difference results in the difference between a 30% capacity factor and a 40% capacity factor, based on the WIND Toolkit's power curve. In real terms, that is a 33% improvement in capacity factor. North Carolina's first wind farm recently broke ground in that region, and reports suggest average capacity factors of that wind farm to be near 40% – very similar to the results of the WIND Toolkit.
Because of the PTC phaseout, there is a real urgency for wind farm development to begin as soon as possible. Electric utilities that delay purchase of wind energy resources may end up losing hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in ratepayer savings due to a reduction in the federal PTC value.
How can clean energy advocates best prepare for wind energy development in the South? During the beginning stages of a proposed wind farm, there may be some general information on the project, but not all details are made publicly available. Or, a proposed project is in such early stages of development that it has not yet been reported or announced. Without this information, advocates can struggle to prepare and answer key questions, concerns, and benefits of a project. Luckily, there is a simple online tool you can use to locate a proposed wind farm near you.
In the spirit of Lent, SACE has reflected on the past 40 days of Lent by showcasing 40 places of worship that put their faith to work by promoting solar and wind energy. Using these forms of energy presents opportunities too not only reduce the impact on the environment, but it also saves money. Many faith-based organizations really benefit from the reduced cost that these resources provide – and it helps in more ways than one by allowing them to advocate for creation care. Clean energy is a positive step forward no matter the faith one subscribes to! Even numbers are solar – odd numbers are wind!