American wind power just passed a historic milestone—it’s now the country’s largest renewable resource by installed generating capacity.
U.S. wind capacity now stands at over 82,000 megawatts (MW), surpassing the 80,000 MW at the nation’s hydropower dams.
Wind power moves up the ranks
That also means wind energy is now the country’s fourth-largest source of electric capacity, behind natural gas, coal and nuclear energy. Wind now sits ahead of hydroelectric and solar. It generates about 5.5 percent of America’s electricity, enough to power 24 million homes, and about five times more than solar.
Locally that amount can be much higher. For example, both Iowa and Kansas produce over 30 percent of their electricity using wind, while Oklahoma and North and South Dakota all generate over 20 percent. Overall, 13 states create at least 10 percent of their electricity using wind. That includes Texas, an especially impressive feat considering the Lone Star State produces more electricity than the United Kingdom.
The economic prosperity driven by wind’s recent growth is in many ways similar to the benefits hydropower provided several generations ago. Many of the nation’s largest hydropower dams were built in the 1930s, helping to pull the country out of the Depression by creating jobs and economic development. They also played a key role in powering the factories that drove the U.S. to victory in WWII.
Wind’s growth is fueling similar economic development today, especially in hard-pressed rural and Rust Belt areas. Today, over 100,000 Americans work in wind energy across all 50 states, with over 500 wind-related factories. That means that your state has wind jobs even if it doesn’t have a wind farm.
These jobs are going right where they’re needed most. In the Rust Belt, wind brings back new manufacturing. For example, Ohio leads the U.S. with over 60 wind power factories, while Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania boast 26 apiece. Altogether, over 25,000 Americans now have wind manufacturing jobs. More than 99 percent of wind farm capacity is installed in rural areas, with the majority in counties that fall below the poverty line.
Wind energy also helps maintain American competitiveness by providing low-cost, stably-priced electricity for industrial customers, including GM factories, Procter & Gamble plants and a number of data centers.
More of these benefits are on the way. Wind energy is on track to supply 20 percent of the country’s electricity by 2030, and at that level, could support 380,000 U.S. jobs according to the Department of Energy. That means there will be countless more stories like these: