Windpower Expansion Helps U.S. Manufacturing
photo by Brent Danley via flickr
In case you needed a short example of what stability in renewable energy policy can do, not just in the alt. energy industry but for the wider economy, all you need do is look to what’s happening in manufacturing of wind turbine components.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, since 2005 US wind capacity has grown 150%. In 2007 alone the U.S. added a tad over 5,200 MW of wind capacity. This has been helped in large part by a stable policy environment. This growth has allowed local manufacturing of wind components to grow as well and by the end of this year it is expected that 50% of overall demand, and 90% of blade demand, can be met domestically. At the start of the period over 70% of wind components had to purchased overseas.If the United States is to continue this level of growth, a stable regulatory environment is needed. In the same period I mentioned above (2007) European wind installation expanded by 8,300 MW. Again, spurred on by a generous and predictable program of renewable energy promotion.
The US Department of Energy estimates that for the US to generate 20% of its electricity from wind power current installed capacity will have to more than triple to 16,000 MW. While this undeniably will have a positive effect in terms of greenhouse gas emissions related to electricity, it will also have an economic multiplier effect in local economies if domestic manufacturing trends continue.
**CORRECTION**As a commenter has very correctly pointed out, my math—well, properly the math of the article linked below—is massively wrong when it comes down to how much US wind installations will have to grow to meet 20% of US electric demand. According to the original DOE report which extrapolated demand out to 2030, "To meet 20% of [US energy demand] U.S. wind power capacity would have to reach more than...300,000MW." Yeah, a bit of a difference from the original figure.
The underlying point I was trying to make remains valid however. There is a link between growth of the U.S. renewables industry in general and wind in specific, a stable regulatory environment, and expansion of domestic manufacturing.
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