With a December 31 deadline looming, Congress remains sharply divided over extending the federal wind power production tax credit (PTC), which grants wind power producers a tax credit of 2.2 cents/kilowatt-hour (kWh), and the federal wind power investment tax credit (ITC).
The US wind energy market and industry has been one of the few bright spots in an economy whose recovery from the depths of 2009 recession has been slow and still appears fragile. Various assemblages of private and public sector proponents have been urging Congressional representatives to renew the wind power PTC, focusing primarily on the boost to job creation and global economic competitiveness for the US in the key, fast growing clean and renewable energy sector.
Wind power growth is producing substantial benefits environmentally and socially as well, and the federal wind power PTC and ITC are seen as pivotal drivers, however. Federal support for clean, renewable energy sources helps set a foundation and a pathway to more responsible and sustainable development by helping wean the US economy off fossil fuels.
A new national report released Nov. 28 entitled, “Wind Power for a Cleaner America: Reducing Global Warming Pollution, Cutting Air Pollution, and Saving Water,” highlights the cross-cutting, multilevel gains and benefits fast-growing US wind power has and is yielding in states across the US, gains and benefits spurred forward in no small part by the federal wind power PTC and ITC.
Wind power, climate change and the energy-water nexus
On November 28 Environment Maine took part in the nationwide release of the report, as well as releasing one focused on wind power in Maine. The report showed that the northeasternmost US state's current power generation from wind energy has displaced some 403,000 metric tons of carbon pollution per year—the “equivalent of eliminating the carbon pollution from 79,000 of today's vehicles,” according to a press release.
According to the report:
- Existing wind generation in Maine annually avoids 403,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, 670 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides, and 1,110 tons of soot-forming sulfur dioxide as well as saving 155 million gallons of water annually—enough to provide water for 7,900 people.
- If the recent pace of wind development continues, in 2016 the new wind generation in Maine would annually avoid an additional 303,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent to eliminating pollution from 59,000 of today’s vehicles), 500 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 840 tons of sulfur dioxide, and it would save an additional 117 million gallons of water each year.
“Wind power is reducing the dangerous pollution that harms our health and is fueling global warming,” Environment Maine field associate Nora Graubard commented. “And the benefits we’re already seeing from wind power are just the tip of the iceberg because Maine has vast untapped wind resources.”
Out west, Environment Colorado on the same day released the national and its customized state version of the report, which shows that power generation from wind energy in the state displaces as much in the way of carbon and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as taking 525,000 cars per year off the road. Wind power accounts for more than 9 percent of power generation in Colorado at present.
Compounding the gains and benefits, the report shows that wind power production in Colorado saves enough water to meet the needs of some 23,300 state residents. Nationwide, the annual water savings from wind power generation in the US would “cover Fort Collins' water needs three times over.” Needless to say, water conservation and sustainable resource management are increasingly urgent and pressing issues in light of recent droughts and increasing bouts of extreme weather in an arid region.
“Wind power is already replacing the dirty and dangerous energy sources of the past and creating a cleaner, healthier future for Coloradans,” Environment Colorado's Margaret McCall was quoted as saying in a press release.
“We can continue on this path of cutting global warming pollution and saving water if Congress acts now to extend critical wind incentives. Our message to Congress is clear: Don’t throw wind power off the fiscal cliff. Water-starved Coloradans can’t afford it."
Image credit: www.CGPGrey.com