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More than dust in the wind: Kansas a first quarter leader

More than dust in the wind: Kansas a first quarter leader
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Here’s some encouraging news to start your month: the U.S. wind industry just had its best first quarter in eight years.

That’s one of the top takeaways from AWEA’s 2017 First Quarter Market Report, and it’s far from the only highlight.

The report contains a lot of good news, so let’s get right to it.

Strongest first quarter since 2009

During the year’s first three months, 2,000 megawatts (MW) of new capacity came online, more than the first three quarters of 2016 combined. The U.S. now has enough installed wind capacity to power 25 million American homes.

U.S. workers built 908 turbines during the first quarter, and that means a lot of business. Each turbine supports 44 years of full-time employment over its lifespan, so American wind power just supported nearly 40,000 job years.

We’re about to build a Texas-sized amount of new wind power

Nearly 21,000 MW of new wind capacity is currently under construction or in advanced development, about the same amount online in Texas today.

As the country’s wind leader, Texas already has enough installed wind capacity to power over 5 million American homes, and wind jobs in the state top 22,000.

So the amount of new wind in the pipeline is clearly a big deal.

Kansas an early 2017 leader

Kansas finished behind only Texas in new wind installations during the quarter. Nearly 500 MW of new in-state capacity came online, and the state will soon top 5,000 MW.

As Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has said, ““Building a world-class wind industry in Kansas has demonstrated that a market-driven approach to renewable energy can and will benefit industry and consumers alike.”

Here’s a look at some of the ways wind power already strengthens Kansas communities:

North Carolina joins the party

North Carolina became the 41st state with a utility-scale wind project when Avangrid Renewables’ Amazon Wind Farm US East started generating electricity earlier this year. The project was the first built in the Southeast in 12 years, and offers clear evidence that improved turbine technology can help bring low-cost wind energy to more parts of the U.S.

Texas stays at the head of the pack

Although wind power grew from coast-to-coast during the first quarter, Texas kept its tight grip on the leader spot with 724 MW coming online.

The corporate buyer trend continued facing front and center in the Lone Star State too, with Home Depot buying enough output from a Texas wind farm to power 100 stores.

Grid operators continue to reliably integrate more wind power

The Southwest Power Pool (SPP), grid operator for 14 states across the Midwest, set a new high water mark by surpassing 50 percent wind penetration.

“Ten years ago we thought hitting even a 25 percent wind-penetration level would be extremely challenging, and any more than that would pose serious threats to reliability,” said Bruce Rew, Southwest Power Pool’s vice president of operations. “Now we have the ability to reliably manage greater than 50 percent. It’s not even our ceiling.”

SPP’s new record offers further proof that wind power helps keep the lights on for America’s families and businesses.

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Greg is AWEA's Deputy Director of External Communications. He is the head editor and writer for Into the Wind, and oversees AWEA's online content and opinion writing. Greg holds a Master's degree in Global Environmental Policy from American University's School of International Service. He also holds a Bachelor's degree in International Relations and Journalism from Lehigh University.

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