America is the Saudi Arabia of wind. According to a 2007 Department of Energy study, building out our wind capacity in the Great Plains - from northern Texas to the Canadian border - would produce 138,000 new jobs in the first year, and more than 3.4 million new jobs over a ten-year period, while also generating as much as 20 percent of our needed electricity.
No discussion about America’s energy future is complete without including wind energy. From Jay Leno putting a windmill atop his garage, to huge wind farms like those in Sweetwater, Texas, wind is a clean, abundant source of energy for America.
According to the American Wind Energy Association:
The U.S. wind industry now totals 46,919 MW of cumulative wind capacity through the end of 2011. There are over 8,300 MW currently under construction involving over 100 separate projects spanning 31 states plus Puerto Rico. The U.S. wind industry has added over 35% of all new generating capacity over the past 4 years, second only to natural gas, and more than nuclear and coal combined. Today, U.S. wind power capacity represents more than 20% of the world's installed wind power.
While many industries have been cutting back on their workforce, about 85,000 people are employed in the wind industry today, up from 50,000 a year ago, holding jobs in areas as varied as turbine component manufacturing, construction and installation of wind turbines, wind turbine operations and maintenance, as well as legal and marketing services.
Additionally, the land on which the wind turbines are located are rented from the ranchers and farmers who own it. Much like a natural gas or oil well, the landowner shares in the money generated by the sale of the electricity, thus further adding to the economic well-being of the community in which the wind farm is located.
When it comes to wind power, Texas is the national leader. But many other states are aggressively developing this resource. In 2011, California added more capacity that any other state, and Iowa ranked first in the U.S. for percentage of electricity derived from wind at more than 15%.
From an environmental standpoint, electricity generation is the largest industrial source of air pollution in the U.S. and demand for electricity continues to grow. The United States produces six billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. By 2030, this number could reach 6.75 billion metric tons. 40 percent of CO2 emissions are generated by the electric power sector.
Wind power generates no emissions, and displaces carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that would otherwise be emitted by fossil fuel-fired electric generation. The clean generation provided by wind capacity installed through 2008 will displace approximately 44 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. One megawatt-hour (MWh) of wind energy produced reduces CO2 emissions by roughly 1,200 pounds. A single 1.67-MW turbine produces over 5,000 MWh of electricity, and so each turbine reduces CO2 emissions by over 3,000 tons.