Into the Wind http://www.aweablog.org The AWEA Wind Energy Blog Wed, 24 Jun 2020 19:27:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.1 http://www.aweablog.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/cropped-favicon-1-32x32.png Into the Wind http://www.aweablog.org 32 32 Q&A: Why McDonald’s is powering up with wind http://www.aweablog.org/qa-why-mcdonalds-is-powering-up-with-wind/ Wed, 24 Jun 2020 17:57:07 +0000 http://www.aweablog.org/?p=17455 Last year, McDonald‘s joined a growing list of many of the world’s largest companies deciding to power their stores, factories and data centers with wind energy. AWEA’s recent Wind Powers American Business report dives into this full-fledged trend, but for some one-on-one background on why companies are spurred in this direction, I recently spoke with Emma Cox, Renewable Energy Lead at McDonald’s.

McDonald’s reasons, like many of its windy counterparts, are multi-faceted; economics, good stewardship, and customer preferences were all key components of the company’s decision. Emma shed further light on McDonald’s renewable energy play below:

Q: McDonald’s is not only a first-time buyer of wind energy in 2019 but also the first in the quick service restaurant industry to purchase wind, ahead of your competition. Why did now feel like the right time to make this move? Is it part of a larger initiative? Have the economics of a deal like this changed and made it more attractive to pursue?

Emma: In 2018, McDonald’s set a very ambitious, science-based target goal to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 36 percent for our restaurants and offices by 2030. When we initially set that goal, we knew renewable energy would play a large role in helping us to get there, so we got to work on setting a strategy right away. I would say the sustained cost declines of wind power and the tax incentives that are currently available for renewable energy make it an easier business case for many C&I buyers, but McDonald’s was determined to reach our goal regardless of the economics. We know that we have global scale, but we are determined to use that scale to do good for the world — including through renewable energy. In the work that we are doing, we also hope to help others access renewable energy and are encouraged to see more and more interest from other C&I buyers. We believe that no matter the reason for that trend, the increased adoption of renewable energy is a good thing.

Q: Why did McDonald’s believe sourcing electricity from wind power was the right thing for its business and its corporate social responsibility goals? What’s the ROI you’re hoping to achieve?

Emma: McDonald’s is not procuring wind power for purely economic ROI. Wind is a perfect technology to achieve the type of scale we are looking for to meet our science based target, and we found PPAs to be the best method to do so. We also love the community benefit that comes along with wind projects, including local job creation, tax revenues, and income for land owners. At McDonald’s we’re continuously seeking ways to make a positive impact on the communities we serve, and the wind projects are another example of how we’re doing that.

Q: The brand has purchased enough megawatts of wind energy to provide electricity to the equivalent of 1,900 U.S. restaurants. What does a commitment to clean power mean for employees and the customers McDonald’s serves?

Emma: McDonald’s operates 38,000 restaurants in over 100 countries—which include both franchised and company-owned restaurants. We see wind PPAs as the perfect way to use our scale for good by adding new clean energy to the U.S. electricity grid. With the positive impacts of new wind projects on both the environment and the local economies where they are located, our offices, franchisees, customers and communities all benefit from having a cleaner grid.

Q: Will this be part of a larger trend? Does McDonald’s have any other renewables in its portfolio, and does it plan to add more?

Emma: The announcement of our first-ever U.S. PPAs at the end of last year builds on several years of work to procure renewable energy in many of our European markets. McDonald’s is just getting started on our renewable energy journey in the U.S. and plans to use the momentum from 2019 to continue growing our portfolio to work towards our science based target, while helping to transform and influence the industry.

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Keeping the wind workforce safe: Cloth face coverings help prevent COVID-19 spread http://www.aweablog.org/keeping-the-wind-workforce-safe-cloth-face-coverings-help-prevent-covid-19-spread/ Tue, 16 Jun 2020 18:44:42 +0000 http://www.aweablog.org/?p=17446 Cloth face coverings can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and help those who may have the virus but don’t know it from transmitting it to others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. You can make your own cloth face covering by following these instructions.

While people who are sick or know that they have COVID-19 should isolate at home, COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. That’s why it’s important for everyone to practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people) and wear cloth face coverings in public settings. Cloth face coverings provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people.

The CDC provides the following tips on how to wear a face covering:

  • Keep the covering on your face the entire time you’re in public.
  • Don’t put the covering around your neck or up on your forehead.
  • Don’t touch the face covering, and, if you do, wash your hands.

In addition to wearing a face covering, remember to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol – cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Download this resource for more on how to protect yourself and others.

While at the workplace, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), consistent with the CDC, generally recommends employers encourage workers to wear face coverings at work. Wearing cloth face coverings, if appropriate for the work environment and job tasks, conserves other types of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as surgical masks, for healthcare settings where such equipment is needed most.

Where cloth face coverings are not appropriate in the work environment or during certain job tasks (e.g., because they could become contaminated or exacerbate heat illness), employers can provide PPE, such as face shields and/or surgical masks, instead of encouraging workers to wear cloth face coverings. Like cloth face coverings, surgical masks and face shields can help contain the wearer’s potentially infectious respiratory droplets and can help limit spread of COVID-19 to others. Note that cloth face coverings are not considered PPE and cannot be used in place of respirators when respirators are otherwise required. It is important to note that cloth face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing measures.

Join AWEA for the “But I Don’t Want to Wear My Face Mask” webinar on June 24 at 2:00 PM ET. This webinar is free to AWEA members. In this presentation, behavioral expert Sharon Lipinski offers specific advice on what employers can do when employees ignore or push back on the company’s coronavirus safety procedures. Attendees will discover the six reasons employees fight these types of guidelines, three tactics that make the situation worse, and three steps people can take to get employees to follow your guidelines. Your cloth face covering may protect them. Their cloth face covering may protect you. Stay Safe.    

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New study: Highlights from the Wind Powers American Business report http://www.aweablog.org/new-study-highlights-from-the-wind-powers-american-business-report/ Thu, 11 Jun 2020 15:56:56 +0000 http://www.aweablog.org/?p=17429 Many of the businesses across the country that power our everyday lives are increasingly choosing wind energy to power their operations. Once a niche market, corporate customers now routinely represent 40 percent or more of announced wind power contracts in a given year and are some of the most sought-after customers by wind project developers. A new AWEA report released today, Wind Powers American Business, focuses on this growing segment and highlights the top corporate buyers of wind energy in the U.S. The bottom line: Companies powering up with wind is no longer just a trend, it’s the new normal.

Let’s dig into some of the top trends:

Corporate buyers have purchased over 16.8 GW of wind energy through the end of 2019

The number and volume of corporate wind purchases has grown substantially in the past six years, from less than 800 MW at the end of 2013 to over 16,800 MW at the end of 2019, more than a twentyfold increase. This growth has been driven by wind’s economics and newfound customer demand for sustainable products. Wind’s costs have fallen 70 percent since 2009, offering corporate purchasers an affordable, reliable option to power their businesses.

In total, over 140 corporate customers have contracted at least 16,857 MW of U.S. wind energy, both operating and under development, through the end of 2019. This is enough wind capacity to power the equivalent of 5.2 million average American homes. Corporate purchasers are now buying 10 percent of all operating wind capacity as of the end of 2019, totaling 10,281 MW.

2019 was a record year for corporate wind energy purchases

Corporate wind procurement set a record in 2019, with a total of 4,447 MW contracted through power purchase agreements (PPAs) and green tariffs. Twenty-nine companies announced wind energy deals in 2019, including 18 first-time buyers. Walmart was the largest purchaser last year, signing contracts for 541 MW. AT&T was second for the year with 460 MW, followed closely by Facebook with 440 MW. The top new buyers of wind in 2019 were McDonald’s, Sprint Corp, Ford Motor Company, Crown Holdings, and Gap Inc. McDonald’s represents the first fast food company to purchase wind energy in the country.

Google is the largest corporate purchaser of wind energy in the U.S.

Google is the top wind energy customer in the U.S. with 2,397 MW contracted from wind projects across six states. Facebook is the second largest purchaser with 1,459 MW of wind energy contracts, followed by Walmart with 1,333 MW. AT&T and Microsoft round out the top five. Walmart and Google were the first companies to sign large-scale wind purchases, in 2008 and 2010 respectively.

The types of companies buying wind energy are diversifying

Prior to 2015, technology and retail companies accounted for nearly 80 percent of corporate wind energy purchases. Since then, the types of companies buying wind have expanded as costs have fallen and more purchasing options, such as virtual power purchase agreements and green tariffs, have emerged. In particular, purchases by companies in the retail, food and beverage, and telecommunications sectors increased significantly in the past few years. In fact, telecommunications companies first signed up for wind energy in 2017 and now represent the third largest sector.

Technology companies continue to lead the pack however, accounting for 41 percent of all contracted wind capacity through 2019. Retail companies sit in second with 12 percent of wind energy deals, followed by telecommunications and food & beverage with 9 percent each. Google of course leads companies in the technology sector, while Walmart leads the retail sector, AT&T leads telecommunications companies, and General Mills is the top food and beverage purchaser.

Corporate purchasing to date only the tip of the iceberg

While corporate wind purchases have grown significantly in recent years, it is still a relatively new market that only a fraction of US companies have entered, and it represents a large opportunity for future growth.

Consultants anticipate corporate renewable purchasing will grow substantially in the 2020s. The barriers to entry are falling as financial instruments supporting the sector come to market, while falling renewable costs provide an excellent long-term power price hedge. U.S. Fortune 1000 companies consume approximately 1,192 terra-watt hours (TWh) of electricity annually. Currently, only 1 percent of F1000 electricity demand is met via direct procurement of operating wind or solar power, with another 1 percent contracted but not yet built.

Wood Mackenzie estimates Fortune 1000 companies will procure 85 GW of additional renewable power through 2030 based on existing company targets, estimated future targets, and continuing transition from renewable energy credit purchases to direct sourcing. Wind, solar, storage, and hybrid projects are expected to remain the technologies of choice to meet this demand.

Take a journey and learn how the products and services you use every day are powered by wind energy!

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CLEANPOWER 2020 brings industry together, virtually http://www.aweablog.org/cleanpower-2020-brings-industry-together-virtually-2/ Fri, 05 Jun 2020 18:46:55 +0000 http://www.aweablog.org/?p=17415 While the utility-scale renewable industry wasn’t able to meet in Denver this year, that didn’t stop us from coming together for a valuable, shared experience during a challenging time. The CLEANPOWER 2020 Stronger Together Virtual Event consisted of the Clean Power Decade webinar, live streamed general sessions and unique networking opportunities.

The event kicked off on May 27th, with industry-leading consultants discussing what the decade holds for wind, solar, and storage over the next ten years. With speakers from IHS Markit, Wood Mackenzie, AWEA, and BloombergNEF, the session is worth a listen if you missed it live!

Virtual 5K run/walk & 10K bike ride 

Leading up to the live streamed sessions, colleagues joined for a virtual 5K run and 10K bike ride. Many companies turned the activity into a friendly company competition. “We’re all feeling the effects of the pandemic and staying at home,” said Kaile Gurney, Senior Communications Specialist at Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy. “AWEA’s invitation to the CLEANPOWER virtual 5k run and 10k bike ride seemed like the perfect way to connect with our colleagues while also creating a friendly competition. Our Siemens Gamesa employees signed up as AWEA instructed. At the end of the week, we’ll select random gift card winners from our employee participants for both the 5k run and 10k ride. Even though we are working away from our colleagues, we can all stay connected and get some exercise.”

Cocktail Demo + Poster Reception

Though many of us were missing the opening reception, the virtual event still offered the opportunity to toast and connect with colleagues. AWEA President & CEO, Tom Kiernan and his wife Kathy hosted a cocktail/mocktail and appetizer demonstration. Following the demo, attendees had time to review visual poster presentations in our CLEANPOWER poster gallery while connecting with select poster authors within small virtual chat rooms to discuss their work further. You can still view the demo and browse poster presentations here.

Leaders Address the Industry

Day 1 of our live streams kicked off with AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan delivering a State of the Industry Address. Tom shared how that despite COVID-19-related economic challenges, renewables, including wind, have a bright future.

Following Tom, we welcomed the incoming AWEA Board Chair, Chris Brown, President of Vestas North America. Chris addressed the importance of updating the grid, new carbon policies, and forging market expansion. He discussed the importance of people, the people in this industry that are already changing the world. And he stressed the only way to get to 50% renewables by 2030 is to unify.

U.S. Renewable and Clean Energy Industries Set Sights on Market Majority

The first panel kicked off with CEOs from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), National Hydropower Association (NHA) & U.S. Energy Storage Association (ESA). Together, these leaders shared their collective vision of renewables reaching a majority of U.S. electricity generation by 2030.

In addition, the four industries released a set of joint advocacy principles that will enable them to realize this bold vision of a majority renewables grid. Along with increased collaboration, these shared principles include building a more resilient, efficient, sustainable, and affordable grid; achieving carbon reductions; and advancing greater competition through fair market rules. Each of these areas is critical to attaining the shared vision for 2030.

The last two sessions focused on topics that everyone is talking about. Session 1, moderated by John Brodbeck, Senior Manager Transmission, at EDP Renewables North America, brought together leaders from PJM Interconnection, Kentucky Public Service Commission, Consumer Advocates of the PJM States and the Maryland Public Service Commission to discuss harmonizing state policy and RTO markets.

Session Two, moderated by Susan Nickey, Managing Director, Hannon Armstrong, focused on the state of the capital markets. Experts from Pattern Energy, BlackRock, Clearway Energy Group, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch discussed how 2020 projects are faring, how developers are managing to finance the capital stack for development pipelines and projects in 2021 and what the policy drivers are to support low cost renewable power post-election.

Community Service Project: CLEANPOWER Is In Our Blood

Each year, AWEA partners with a local organization on a community service project. Even though this year’s event was virtual, that isn’t stopping the industry from coming together for an important cause.

The Red Cross has to collect 15,000 blood donations every day to have enough blood to help patients in 2,700 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. That’s a lot of patients in need and all of us, coming together, can help ensure patients receive lifesaving blood. CLEANPOWER Is In Our Blood is an AWEA led industry blood drive running now through July 2. Make an appointment now to give blood to the American Red Cross.

CLEANPOWER 2021 in Indy!

Past exhibitors are now booking exhibition space for CLEANPOWER 2021 being held in Indianapolis, June 7 – 10. Take a look at the floor plan as it is updated daily with confirmed exhibitors. Booth reservations will open to new exhibitors on July 1, 2020. If you have any questions, please reach out to Brent Nussbaum.

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Outgoing AWEA board chair Rob Caldwell reflects on a 40-year energy career http://www.aweablog.org/outgoing-awea-board-chair-rob-caldwell-reflects-on-a-40-year-energy-career/ Wed, 27 May 2020 14:48:16 +0000 http://www.aweablog.org/?p=17400 After 40 years in the power generation business, Rob Caldwell has seen a lot of change—technologies improve, customer preferences evolve, and policy drivers adapt to reflect the will of the people. As his tenure as AWEA Board Chair comes to a close and he nears retirement as President of Duke Energy Renewables, I had a chance to speak with Rob as he reflected on his career and gave insights on the grid of the future. And that vision holds a lot of promise for wind, solar and storage working together.

“It’s a hard decision for me to retire right now,” he told me. “Because even though we’ve seen tremendous growth, I think there is still tremendous growth ahead of us.”

From demonstration projects to a player on the grid

When Rob began working in natural gas four decades ago, renewables were still a novelty. Projects were expensive and unreliable, essentially demonstrations. Importantly, they also lacked customer demand and awareness.

In Rob’s experience, that remained the case until about 10 years ago, right around the time he moved into renewables. Back then, Rob was working at Progress Energy in North Carolina, and the state had just passed a 12.5 percent renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Rob was put in charge of ensuring Progress Energy secured compliance with the new law, which meant developing, owning and operating renewable assets.

At first, there was concern Progress Energy wouldn’t be able to generate enough renewable kilowatt hours to comply without exceeding its price cap. But something remarkable happened—the cost of wind and solar started falling faster than anyone predicted. By 2015, Progress Energy ended up achieving RPS compliance through 2028 while having spent less than half its price cap. Rob led a renewables division that fairly quickly evolved from a compliance operation to a business operation, showing how rapidly the math changes when costs decline. He soon realized renewables weren’t just something needed to comply with a law—they could play a big role on the grid of the future.

“Renewables are just the next generation of generation,” Rob said.

“Clearly the three key drivers of this business are policy, technology and customer demand,” Rob told me. Policy jump-started the industry, technology improvements and cost declines brought wind and solar to scale, and now customer demand means power generation companies must have a foot in the renewable space.

“Our focus (at Duke Energy) is to be customer-centric,” Rob said. Corporate and industrial customers don’t want to be power generation companies—they want to be retailers, manufacturers and tech companies. That creates an opportunity for utilities like Duke to provide their expertise and offer the renewable energy Fortune 500 businesses are demanding.

What the future holds

As wind, solar and storage supply more of America’s electricity mix, Rob sees the grid evolving along with it. In fact, AWEA’s work on transmission expansion and market design was one of the program areas Rob found most compelling when he agreed to become board chair.

“You need a grid to get it from where the wind and solar resources are to where the load is,” he said. “I think wires are going be a critical enabler for (renewable) growth. I’m very bullish on the grid, both big wire and little wire.”

“The grid is a significant, important asset and will be for a long time to come. I think it will become smarter and optimized as more variable sources come online,” he said.

Rob sees a future where wind and solar supply ever-greater amounts of the country’s electricity, with storage helping to balance out shifts in supply.

“I just think it’s an amazingly interesting time to be in the power business,” he said.

We thank Rob for his service as Board Chair and hope he enjoys a well-deserved retirement!

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#AmericanWindWeek 2020: Wind Builds the Future http://www.aweablog.org/americanwindweek-2020-wind-builds-the-future/ Wed, 20 May 2020 11:31:53 +0000 http://www.aweablog.org/?p=17392 August is fast approaching, and that means it’s time to start planning for #AmericanWindWeek 2020, happening August 9-15. And to get your creative juices flowing, we’re happy to announce this year’s theme: Wind Builds the Future.

There are so many ways wind is building a better, cleaner future for all Americans:

  • The wind workforce is on the frontlines helping to keep the lights on every day.
  • Clean energy jobs and wind’s investment in rural America and the along the coastlines will play an important role in the post-pandemic economic recovery.
  • Companies are creating a new way of doing business by powering their factories, stores, restaurants, and data centers using wind– proving renewable energy is good for business and the environment.
  • Wind offers America’s veterans a prosperous path forward when they finish their service.
  • Champions at the state and federal level are putting in place supportive policies and committing to bold, achievable goals that will deliver affordable, reliable, clean energy to families and businesses.

There will be a dedicated day highlighting each of these future-building components during #AmericanWindWeek 2020.

Given the challenges our country is currently facing, #AmericanWindWeek 2020 will also look a little different this August. In prior years, in-person events at wind projects, manufacturing facilities, and host communities were the heart of #AmericanWindWeek. However, ongoing social distancing and other public health measures mean we need to take a different approach this go-round.

We’re pleased to announce #AmericanWindWeek 2020 is going all virtual. We’ll harness the power of social media and the digital world to showcase and thank our 120,000+ wind workers, highlight the many ways wind projects are strengthening local communities and aiding in the economic recovery, thank our wind champions, and much more. Send any ideas or suggestions our way at windweek@awea.org.

No matter how you look at it, wind is building a future powered by a strong economy and clean energy. Let’s let the world know during #AmericanWindWeek 2020.

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American wind power supports COVID-19 relief efforts in communities across the country http://www.aweablog.org/american-wind-power-supports-covid-19-relief-efforts-in-communities-across-the-country/ Fri, 24 Apr 2020 13:52:47 +0000 https://www.aweablog.org/?p=17378 Our society and economy continue to grapple with the unprecedented challenges COVID-19 presents. Ensuring the wind energy workforce’s safety and protecting U.S. wind jobs remains the top priority, and when the economy can safely reopen, wind power stands ready to play a leading role in the recovery.

However, communities across the country are struggling right now, and the U.S. wind industry is doing its part to aid in the recovery effort.

Companies like Avangrid, NextEra Energy, Enel North America, Duke Energy and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy have made seven figure contributions to recovery efforts. EDP Renewables, Hannon Armstrong, DTE Energy and Apex Clean Energy are aiding efforts at the local level to ensure food security, adequate housing, PPE access, and small business security, among other initiatives. In New Mexico, Pattern Energy and Blattner Energy have teamed with Gov. Michele Lujan Grisham to create the All Together New Mexico fund to address recovery work in the state, while the GE Renewable Energy team is using its enhanced manufacturing knowledge to produce 3D printed N95 face mask shields.

Fostering strong partnerships with local host communities is essential for the success of American wind power. Companies take great pride in creating well-paying local jobs and strengthening economies in the communities where they live and work. The commitment to being a good neighbor and local partner is more important than ever, and U.S. wind power is stepping up and giving back during this unprecedented time of need. Learn more about wind-led relief initiatives here, and please contact Greg Alvarez if your company is partnering in COVID-19 relief efforts.

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Fact check: New Michael Moore-backed Planet of the Humans full of errors, fundamentally misunderstands electric system http://www.aweablog.org/fact-check-new-michael-moore-backed-documentary-full-of-errors-fundamentally-misunderstands-electric-system/ Wed, 22 Apr 2020 18:58:58 +0000 https://www.aweablog.org/?p=17373 A new Michael Moore-backed documentary has been released that examines the climate crisis and the lack of progress made so far in combating the problem. Unfortunately, and somewhat strangely, the filmmakers chose to focus much of their attention erroneously critiquing a leading climate solution—renewable energy.

The reality is wind and solar today are already avoiding substantial amounts of carbon emissions, and the potential to cut even more CO2 emissions is enormous. Today wind avoids 42 million cars’ worth of carbon pollution a year, and that number will steadily grow as wind’s near-record pipeline of projects in development comes online. The book Drawdown is a comprehensive examination of 100 different solutions to climate change, with input from more than 100 of the world’s foremost climate researchers. It finds landbased wind power is the second most effective way to reduce emissions, and offshore wind ranks 22nd on the list

Let’s set the record straight on where this film gets it wrong. See this article for an in-depth look at the film’s problematic portrayal of solar power.

A misunderstanding of the power system

No electricity source runs 100 percent of the time, including coal, gas, and nuclear plants in addition to wind and solar. Conventional power plants need to go offline for maintenance or other unexpected reasons. In Texas, coal piles flooded during Hurricane Harvey and became frozen during cold spells, rendering coal plants inoperable. In fact, during Polar Vortex weather events in 2019 and 2014, and the Bomb Cyclone event in 2018, conventional power plants experienced widespread failures because of the extreme cold.

Grid operators have decades of experience managing these changes in supply and demand, and it’s proven that sudden, unexpected outages at large conventional power plants are more costly and difficult to manage than the gradual, predictable changes in wind and solar output. Because of the balancing efforts grid operators undertake, it’s simply untrue that fossil fuel reserves run around the clock for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, as the documentary falsely claims.

Along these lines, the documentary attacks Apple, the Tesla Gigafactory and others for claiming they run on renewable energy. However, the film again misunderstands how the power system works. The electricity grid can be thought of like an ATM. When a corporate buyer of wind energy says it’s buying enough wind to power a data center for example, that doesn’t necessarily mean the electricity generated by a wind farm feeds directly into the data center.

Say you deposit $20 in the ATM near your office. A short time later, you withdraw it from the ATM near your house. You now have a different bill than the one you deposited, but that’s irrelevant; you still have $20. This aspect of the banking system is analogous to how the electric power system works: it aggregates all sources of electricity supply and demand over a large geographic area, allowing one to add wind energy in one area and use an equivalent amount of electricity somewhere else on the grid.

Wrong on carbon footprints and lifecycle impacts

At several points in the documentary, filmmakers bizarrely criticize the materials used to build wind turbines and solar panels and claim that emissions generated to build renewable energy projects are greater than the carbon reduction benefits the projects will create.

This is simply false.

The average wind project repays its carbon footprint in less than six months and generates zero carbon electricity for the remainder of its 20 to 30 year lifespan. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory reviewed all published research on this topic and concluded that wind energy’s carbon footprint is a fraction of all fossil fuels’ and even lower than nuclear and most other renewable energy sources. Every study by utilities, independent power system operators, and government entities has found those pollution reductions are as large or larger than expected.

Wind turbines are primarily made of steel and concrete, as the documentary notes, but so is nearly every man-made structure in modern society. Cars, buildings, sidewalks, and countless other structures, not to mention conventional power plants, are also constructed using steel and concrete. Nor do U.S. wind turbines use significant amounts of rare earth materials as the film portrays—over 95 percent of the U.S. wind turbine fleet uses gearboxes rather than direct drive machines, which means rare earths are not used.

Wind and Solar’s impact on fossil fuel use

The film’s claim that wind and solar energy is “not replacing fossil fuels” is  patently false. While 13,703 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired capacity was retired in 2019, more wind power capacity was added to the grid than any other generation technology. Together, wind and solar represent 62 percent of capacity added in 2019. Furthermore, wind energy provided 7.2 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2019, up from a 6.5 percent share in 2018. At the same time electricity generated from coal dropped 15 percent from 2018 levels, continuing its decline in the U.S. electricity market. Wind energy’s share of U.S. electricity generation has more than tripled since 2010 when wind accounted for 2.3 percent of total generation. Iowa and Kansas, for example, now both generate over 40 percent of their electricity using wind, and in both states wind is the largest electricity source.

The climate crisis is a real and significant challenge society must solve, and it’s good to bring attention to the problem. In this instance however, filmmakers have made an odd choice to criticize leading climate solutions using inaccurate information while fundamentally misportraying how the power system works. Doing so sows misinformation and sows confusion, and ultimately undermines any good they were trying to accomplish.

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New report: Top six wind power trends of 2019 http://www.aweablog.org/new-report-top-six-wind-power-trends-of-2019/ Thu, 16 Apr 2020 19:34:33 +0000 https://www.aweablog.org/?p=17357 Although the COVID-19 pandemic is causing great uncertainty throughout our economy, American wind power rests on a strong foundation as we seek to overcome these challenging times. And AWEA’s just-released Wind Powers America Annual Report 2019 shows just how strong that foundation is. Wind energy is powering more U.S. families and businesses than ever before while providing well-paying jobs, investments in rural America, and a cleaner environment.

Let’s dig into some of the report’s top trends.

Wind supplies record amounts of energy

Wind power became the country’s largest source of renewable energy in 2019, reliably and affordably supplying 7.2 percent of the country’s electricity. In total, wind turbines generated just over 300 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2019, surpassing hydro to become the top renewable energy provider in the country.

At the state level, wind energy hit remarkable highs. Six states—Iowa, Kansas, Maine, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota—generated at least 20 percent of their electricity using wind. Iowa and Kansas both surpassed 40 percent wind generation, and more impressively both states generated more electricity from wind power than any other technology.

Wind is the preferred choice for new power

Wind power was the number one choice of new utility-scale power generation in 2019, capturing 39 percent of new additions. Natural gas-fired power additions captured 36 percent of the market while utility-scale solar captured 23 percent. Together, renewables, led by wind and solar, constitute 62 percent of new power capacity additions for the year.

Across the country, wind power capacity grew 10 percent as American workers installed 9,137 megawatts (MW) of new wind projects in 2019, making it the industry’s third strongest year on record. The wind industry surpassed the 100 GW milestone, ending the year with just under 106 GW of operating wind power capacity and nearly 60,000 wind turbines. That’s enough wind capacity to power 32 million American homes.

Texas and Iowa, long the country’s wind leaders, both set single year records for new wind installations, building 3,938 MW and 1,739 MW, respectively. South Dakota outpaced all states in terms of wind power capacity growth. The state added 506 MW for a one-year growth rate of 50 percent.

And there’s more on the way. The project pipeline of new wind farms either under construction or in advanced development stands at more than 44 GW. When completed, these projects will supply enough electricity to power an additional 15 million homes.

Buyers power up with wind

Utilities and corporate buyers set yet another record in 2019, signing over 8,700 MW of new power purchase agreements. Notably, corporate buyers signed 40 percent of these agreements, with Walmart and AT&T being the year’s two largest corporate purchasers. Fourteen first-time buyers made wind purchases in 2019, including companies as diverse as McDonald’s, Estee Lauder and Baker Hughes.

Not to be outdone, utilities continued to be the largest buyers of wind. Large contracts announced by utilities like NIPSCO, National Grid, and Austin Energy pushed utility PPA activity over 5,000 MW for the year. Offshore wind projects added to the trend with National Grid signing a contract to purchase 400 MW from Revolution Wind.

Wind’s popularity is driven in no small part by its competitive economics. Because costs have fallen by 70 percent over the past decade, wind is now the cheapest source of new electricity in many parts of the country.

Wind powers rural America

Over 99 percent of wind projects are built in rural America, bringing nearly unmatched investment and economic opportunity. In 2019 alone wind projects paid $1.6 billion in state and local taxes and land lease payments. That gives rural communities that often have small tax bases new revenue to invest in schools, fix roads and fund emergency services. Land lease payments give farmers and ranchers a steady income source that helps them during periods of low crop prices or poor weather, keeping many family farms in the family.

These payments are in addition to the local economic investment driven by $14 billion that developers invested in new wind projects in 2019. These capital investments support economic growth across the country and enable the transition to a cleaner economy.

Wind creates well-paying jobs in all 50 states

Over 120,000 Americans now have well-paying jobs in wind, ranging from manufacturing to construction, operations and maintenance, engineering and more. In fact, wind turbine technician remains the country’s second fastest growing job according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, trailing only solar installer. Wind power is also one of the few industries creating new U.S. manufacturing jobs, with over 530 factories in 43 states now building wind turbine components. The men and women who serve our country also find rewarding wind careers, as veterans find wind jobs at a rate 61 percent higher than the average U.S. industry.

U.S. offshore wind builds momentum

Offshore wind experienced enormous progress in 2019. States up and down the East Coast made are now targeting over 25 GW of offshore, and over 26 GW of offshore wind projects are in various stages of development in federal lease areas issued to date. Developers now plan to bring 9 GW of offshore wind online by 2026, creating a new ocean energy resource that will supply clean, reliable power generated in close proximity to many of the country’s largest population centers. Reports show offshore wind could create 83,000 jobs by 2030, and Americans are on board this vision for the future—over 80 percent of people across party lines support offshore wind, according to a recent survey.

Wind powers a cleaner America

Wind provides all these benefits while being a zero-pollution electricity source, offering further proof we don’t have to choose between a strong economy and a clean environment. As a leading climate change solution, wind avoided 42 million cars’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions in 2019, and it also cut substantial amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, air pollutants that create smog and trigger asthma attacks. Importantly, especially in drought-prone regions, wind avoided roughly 103 billion gallons of water consumption by thermal power plants last year.

American workers built and impressive 75 GW of wind in the last 10 years, and wind is poised to reach even greater heights over the coming decade. Here’s to the next 100 GW and beyond.

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First Wind Wildlife Research Fund results improve understanding of bat and prairie grouse wind energy interactions http://www.aweablog.org/first-wind-wildlife-research-fund-results-improve-understanding-of-bat-and-prairie-grouse-ind-energy-interactions/ Mon, 13 Apr 2020 19:40:20 +0000 https://www.aweablog.org/?p=17350 The first results of Wind Wildlife Research Fund studies are providing new information about interactions between wind energy and wildlife – namely, bats and prairie grouse.

The Fund is a unique industry-led initiative that the American Wind Wildlife Institute manages. It pools resources to advance critical collaborative research on wind-wildlife interactions and solutions. In 2019, the Fund launched its first seven research projects, and results from three of these studies are now available or in publication.

Climate change remains the biggest threat to many species of wildlife, and wind energy has a pivotal role to play in reducing carbon emissions from the energy sector. In 2018 alone, wind energy, the country’s largest renewable energy source, cut over 43 million cars’ worth of carbon emissions. The industry is set to further reduce emissions in the future. According to AWEA’s recent quarterly U.S. Wind Industry Market Report, at the end of 2019 the U.S. near-term wind project pipeline was 44.2 GW—equal to almost half of the wind energy operating today.

Substantially increasing our nation’s wind energy infrastructure in ways that protect and conserve wildlife depends on finding solutions to wind-wildlife challenges that are scientifically sound and statistically valid, and the Fund focuses on research that will deliver these solutions. Its activities and priorities align with AWWI’s National Wind Wildlife Research Plan and are guided by an Advisory Council comprised of the Fund’s major contributors. Fund leaders work together to select the projects, and each individual company determines its level of support for each research project. Companies that contribute to the Fund also become Partners or Friends of AWWI, and contributors include both conservation organizations and wind companies.

“It is really encouraging to see that Fund research is already yielding tangible results that can help us understand risk and better target conservation efforts,” commented Joy Page from Defenders of Wildlife, AWWI Partner and a member of AWWI’s Board. “There has been a long-standing need for more credible, peer-reviewed information about how wind energy development affects wildlife, particularly for species of concern like migratory tree bats, and the Fund is helping to meet that need by generating new knowledge.”

Expert-reviewed reports from two studies, one investigating lesser prairie chicken responses to wind projects, and another looking at the relationship between landscape-level factors and migratory tree bat fatalities at wind facilities, have been published by AWWI and are now available. Another study comparing bat pre-construction acoustic activity and post-construction fatality rates has been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal where publication is expected later this year.

Wind Energy and Lesser Prairie-Chickens

Placement of Wind Energy Infrastructure Matters: A Quantitative Study Evaluating Response of Lesser Prairie-Chicken to a Wind Energy Facility” presents the results of an investigation into the effects of wind energy infrastructure on lesser prairie-chickens (LEPC) over a three-year period at a Kansas wind energy facility.

LEPC are endemic to the North American Great Plains and have experienced range-wide population declines as their habitat has been lost or fragmented due to landscape changes. Wind-wildlife stakeholders have wanted to learn more about LEPC responses to wind energy infrastructure within LEPC habitats.  

This study, the first to look at the effects of wind energy infrastructure on LEPC, found no negative effects on LEPC habitat selection or survival during the first three years of data collection at this wind facility, which is located in an agricultural landscape. With the support of the Fund, the study will continue for a fourth year in 2020 to verify initial findings and investigate the potential for LEPC delayed responses to wind energy infrastructure.

Wind Energy and Bats

Landscape Factors Associated with Fatalities of Migratory Tree-Roosting Bats at Wind Energy Facilities: An Initial Assessment” used an extensive data set provided by the American Wind Wildlife Information Center (AWWIC) database to identify connections between landscape-level features and fatality rates at nearby wind facilities for three migratory tree bat species, hoary, eastern red, and silver-haired. These three species comprise approximately 72 percent of all bat fatalities at wind energy facilities. Understanding these associations can help inform siting and design decisions, but few studies have explored them.

The authors looked at relevant landscape metrics (e.g. land cover) at multiple spatial scales. Key findings include that factors influencing bat fatalities differed among regions and species; that fatalities of all three species were higher at facilities with greater urbanization (percentage of developed land) within 25 km; and that areas with multiple small or mixed small and large wetland patches may present increased risk. The study focused on sites in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Legacy Regions 3 and 5; further studies may help understand these relationships for different species in different Regions.

Bat Activity Rates Do Not Predict Bat Fatality Rates at Wind Energy Facilities,” accepted by the peer-reviewed journal Acta Chiropterologica, presents Fund study findings that investigated the relationship between pre-construction bat acoustic activity and post-construction fatality rates at wind facilities to assess the effectiveness of using pre-construction acoustic activity monitoring to assess risk. The study found bat activity rates (based on bat echolocation surveys) prior to wind development did not predict bat fatality rates at wind energy facilities, and acoustic activity rates at operational wind facilities did not predict bat fatality rates that occurred during the same time period.

“The quality of information in these first reports underscores the value of investing in the Fund,” remarked Ray Kelly from Clearway Energy Group, Secretary of the Fund, AWWI Partner, and member of AWWI’s Board. “The wind industry’s ability to grow sustainably and deliver meaningful carbon reductions depends on minimizing wildlife impacts and maximizing conservation benefits. The scientific knowledge gained from Fund-supported research is vital to these efforts.”

In 2020, the Wind Wildlife Research Fund is supporting seven research projects. Some are new and others are continuations of 2019 research projects. The results of the projects will inform regulatory and business decisions in the wind industry, helping to achieve conservation outcomes.

If you would like to learn more about the Fund, please contact AWWI Executive Director Abby Arnold at 202-448-8775 or aarnold@awwi.org.

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