Chart Of The Day: Wind Power Helps Drive Strong Increase In U.S. Renewable Electricity Generation

As policy makers in Washington ignore the urgent need to extend federal tax credits for wind, there’s some new data for them to consider. Over the last decade, the number of states generating more than 10% of electricity from non-hydro renewable energy has increased from two to nine.

The main driver? Wind.

According to the Energy Information Administration, there are now 20 states generating more than 5% of electricity from non-hydro renewables. The two most dramatic increases in renewable generation were in South Dakota and Iowa, which now have 21% and 17% penetration respectively, up from about 1% a decade ago.

These figures don’t include on-site distributed generation — a sector that is still very small, but growing steadily.

There’s a reason why many Republican lawmakers, including Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Iowa Representative Steve King, want to see the Production Tax Credit for wind extended. The industry has supported more than 3,000 manufacturing and operations jobs in the state, providing more than $12.7 million in annual land lease payments for Iowans each year.

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9 Responses to Chart Of The Day: Wind Power Helps Drive Strong Increase In U.S. Renewable Electricity Generation

  1. Zimzone says:

    I wish President Obama had included home wind turbine credits or subsidies as part of the stimulus act.
    It would free up the electrical grid, offer significant savings to home owners and move us away from the fossil fuel fiasco that’s killing our planet.

  2. prokaryotes says:

    Besides the reason to go “green”, the next energy revolution has economic advantages.
    The next big energy Buzz is already upon us! So each state or “nation” with invests into “renewables” – “unlimited energy production”. Will prosper – others are programmed to fail / tuff times.

  3. David B. Benson says:

    There are at least half a dozen studies, most from Europe but one regarding Colorado and Texas, which show that despite substantial wind generation, CO2 emissions are abated only slightly [but in the case of Ireland, increased]. The reason is that fossil fuel generators are used to backup the wind (balancing agents and reserve). When these generators are ramped excess fuel is consumed. Ramping up consumes excess rather like accellerating an automobile. Ramping down wastes the heat already made.

  4. David B. Benson says:

    With some effort, one finds from EIA data that from 2001 to 2011 electricity produced using fossil fueled generators declined but about 3.5%.

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    We can’t afford to think in selfish, nationalistic, terms anymore. We must face the crisis as one human population. Failed or ‘tuff’ states will simply breed refugees, violence, war, disease and every conceivable trouble.

  6. Tom Gray says:

    It’s true that there are several such studies–most of them generated by natural-gas-funded consultants or conservative think tanks (quite a few of those in the climate realm also, as I recall :)). A few talking points from the American Wind Energy Association’s standard material on utility integration of wind:

    “- U.S. Department of Energy data conclusively show that states and countries that have ramped up their use of wind energy have seen lock-step declines in fossil fuel use and harmful air pollution, and those declines cannot be explained by any other factor.
    – Every study by utilities, independent power system operators, and government entities that has examined wind’s fossil fuel use and pollution reductions has found those savings are as large or larger than expected.
    – Some of these studies have found that wind disproportionately displaces dirtier and less flexible coal power relative to more flexible natural gas power plants, so wind’s pollution reduction benefits are even larger than expected.”

    I can go deeper on this if needed.–Tom Gray, Wind Energy Communications Consultant

  7. Tom Gray says:

    Correct. Last year, U.S. wind turbines generated roughly 120 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. That was just under 3% of national electricity use or, to look through the other end of the telescope, as much electricity as the entire state of Michigan used. Wind generation has nearly doubled in the past three years, so some big numbers would be possible with appropriate energy policies. The U.S. wind resource is capable of generating 13 times total national electricity use, so there is room for continued growth. Detailed info available from

  8. Tom Gray says:

    Wind power is also now producing 6% of Europe’s electricity, according to the European Wind Energy Association.