The drive towards renewables use in American energy markets is going full steam ahead, and the wind industry is an integral, albeit less-talked about, component of this rapidly-growing sector. Solar is usually seen as the herald of the green energy industry, but wind’s role — particularly in the U.S. — cannot be underestimated, especially when the market for its development and use is steadily on the rise.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released a report detailing the important year the wind market had in the U.S. in 2014. The 7th annual AWEA U.S Wind Industry Annual Market Report notes that four times more new wind generating capacity came online last year compared to 2013. Various factors were responsible for a slump in wind deployment in 2013 (a 92% decrease from 2012), notably “policy uncertainty” that was a result of the lapse of the Production Tax Credit at the end of 2012. The AWEA says that that lapse resulted in the loss of 30,000 wind industry jobs.
But the industry picked back up in a big way in 2014, when 23,000 jobs were added in the sector. The wind market now has a total of 73,000 jobs. (20,000 workers are in more than 500 facilities across 43 states, combined with 53,000 other jobs in project development, construction, operations, etc.) And the report notes that 2015 began with a record number of projects underway: 12,700 megawatts of wind projects to be precise. The U.S. wind industry garnered $12 billion in private investment last year.
But while 2014 was a stand-out year for wind, the Department of Energy forecasts that it won’t be a singularly successful one. Its report issued last month titled “Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States” found that wind energy has the potential to double within the next five years to supply 10% of electricity by 2020 and 35% by 2050. The DoE says that the cumulative benefits of wind amount to “$400 billion (net present value 2013-2050) in avoided global damage from [greenhouse gases] GHGs with 12.3 gigatonnes of avoided GHG emissions through 2050”. And wind could bring cumulative benefits of $108 billion through 2050 through avoided emissions of fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxides.
As the cost of renewables slowly decreases with the advent of newer technologies, and the demand for renewables goes up, the green energy industry will hopefully continue to enjoy more healthy years like wind’s 2014.