Americans love wind power, but why?
Polls consistently find that a majority of Americans support wind energy. And in places where there’s more wind power present, there’s more support. The latest poll coming out of the Midwest reinforces that point, with 87 percent of Midwesterners (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin) supporting increased use of wind energy.
So why is wind power so popular?
Here’s our top 10 list on why Americans support wind power:
1) The wind is free – and wind energy already saves consumers billions
In the same way a fixed-rate mortgage protects homeowners from fluctuations in interest rates, adding clean wind energy through fixed-rate utility contracts protects ratepayers from price shocks associated with fossil fuels and helps keep their energy costs low.
And new Department of Energy data show the 11 states with the most wind energy have saved more on their electric bills than ratepayers in all other states.
Wind power's value to consumers has increased over the last five years, as taller towers, longer blades, improved gearboxes, and over 30 years of experience in siting wind turbines to maximize their power output have helped drive down costs. According to a recent study by the Wall Street financial firm Lazard, wind power has lowered its costs 58 percent over the last five years.
2) Wind power supports well-paid manufacturing jobs, helping revitalize communities
It's true that American wind power has created a brand new domestic manufacturing sector that stretches across 43 states with more than 550 facilities. But what has this growth meant for everyday Americans in local communities across the U.S.?
Check out what TPI Composites worker Tim Doran says about this wind manufacturing plant and how it has benefited his community in Iowa:
3) Wind supports thousands of other well-paying jobs, including blue-collar construction and maintenance jobs, helps grow our economy
Wind power supports up to 80,000 jobs across the U.S. and attracts up to $25 billion a year into our national economy. By continuing to invest in wind power, the Department of Energy estimates wind power could support 500,000 jobs by 2030.
4) Farmers, ranchers and other land owners benefit
Texas rancher Cody Johnson of Stephenville, Texas has this to say about wind:
“On the hill there, looking down the road, looking at the windmills, you know, it’s a peaceful thing to me. It’s pretty to look at. And in the back of your mind the whole time, it’s a good cause. It’s 100 percent renewable energy. There’s enough power generated a year to supply enough for 25,000 homes. I mean, how can you go wrong? It hasn’t had any effect on the wildlife or the livestock here. They’ve got great roads. It’s just really cool to look up and see them spinning and think that you’re making a little of money and you’re helping the world out as you do it. So it’s a pretty good thing."
5) It captures our imagination, gives us hope
In recent years, one of the most sought after jobs by students graduating from college are jobs in renewable energy.
Cutting-edge programs like KidWind and classes at schools like the Colorado-based EcoTech are helping to prepare students with the understanding and skills they need to land the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Every year KidWind hosts the KidWind Challenge, where students use their imaginations to compete across the country to design and build the best wind turbine models. Watch this video to hear what students have to say about taking part in the annual competition.
6) Wind power keeps our air clean
By diversifying our energy mix with clean, renewable wind power, the U.S. reduces carbon dioxide emissions and avoids harmful particulate matter associated with heart and lung disease.
Installed wind power in the U.S. avoids 127 million short tons of carbon dioxide a year in the U.S. – the equivalent of taking 20 million cars off the road.
7) Wind power helps conserve water
With areas of the U.S. experiencing the harmful effects of drought, including many rural areas, wind power's ability to help conserve critical water resources is another great benefit.
Today, American wind power conserves 35 billion gallons of water a year. And an upcoming report by the Department of Energy on the future of American wind power estimates by obtaining 35 percent our electricity needs from wind, we can conserve 336 billion gallons of water – enough to fill the Dallas Cowboys stadium more than 430 times.
8) Wind power is beautiful
Photographers, videographers and other artists enjoy sharing pictures, videos and paintings of wind farms. That enjoyment was on display earlier this year when millions of impressions were made due participation in AWEA's #iheartwind campaign.
9) Wind power helps meet our climate challenge, benefiting the environment, wildlife and humans
The U.S. produces nearly six billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year according to the EPA, and electricity generation is the largest industrial source of carbon emissions in the U.S. And Audubon, the mainstream conservation group working to protect birds, released a report just last month calling climate change the biggest threat to birds.
As one of the most rapidly deployable and affordable clean energy technologies, wind power is a major way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and act to solve climate change. Over 10 states are already reducing carbon emissions by 10 percent or more from wind energy alone. (California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington State).
And according to the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), by obtaining 30 percent of the U.S. electricity needs from wind, we will cut power sector emissions 37 percent.
As wind energy continues scaling up from over five percent today to 20 percent of the U.S. power grid and beyond, the pollution savings will rapidly grow.
10) Fosters economic development in American communities in unexpected ways
People enjoy viewing wind farms so much, that local chambers of commerce have even set up "wind turbine tours." The Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce in Michigan promotes wind turbine turbines around the state.
In Atlantic City, wind turbines installed there attract 15,000 tourists a year interested in learning about wind power.
Photo from Nov. 2013 Windpower Monthly article, "Tourism Whitelee Project: rules of attraction rewritten"
People just love looking at them.