While solar gets most of the headlines lately because it has crossed important price thresholds in the past few years, making its rate of growth accelerate tremendously, wind power remains a renewable energy workhorse, pumping gigawatts of clean energy in the U.S. power-grid.
In fact, wind power in the country recently passed some impressive milestones: As of November, there were 50,000 operating wind turbines at more than 980 utility-scale wind farms across 40 states and Puerto Rico, and 70 gigawatts of capacity! If you do the math, that's about 1.4 megawatt per turbine. And the year isn't over, so 2015 will end well over 70 GW of cumulative capacity.
American wind power began this year with a capacity of 65,877 MW, with 956 utility-scale wind projects.
U.S. wind power has had lots of ups and downs in the past few years, mostly because of uncertainty surrounding the renewal of tax credits. The previous milestones of 50 GW and 60 GW were crossed all the way back in 2012, as everyone rushed to finish projects before the credits were set to expire. Then in 2013, there was a big crash, with new wind installations declining by over 90%... Now we're back to a healthy clip, and with the renewal of the credits for 5 more years (for both wind and solar), we see over 13,250 MW of new wind capacity under construction with 4,100 MW of additional projects getting close to construction.
Despite the somewhat lost years after 2012, the next few years should help us make up for lost ground. More and more of the electrons in the U.S. power grid will come from clean sources, and the beauty of wind and solar is that once you've built the capacity, there is no "fuel" to pay for.
“This American wind power success story just gets better. There’s now enough wind power installed to meet the equivalent of total electricity demand in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “Wind energy is the biggest, fastest and cheapest way we can cut carbon pollution here in the U.S., and as wind power grows, so will savings for American families and businesses all across the country.”
And here's a preemptive link for those who will write about wind turbines and birds: Wind turbines kill around 300,000 birds annually, house cats around 3,000,000,000.
Don't get me wrong, everything should be done to minimize as much as possible any impact on birds (proper siting, etc), but global warming will also have a big impact on wildlife if we don't clean up our energy supply... The choice isn't between wind turbines and magical perfect energy that harms no one. It is between things like wind and solar and coal, natural gas, etc.