United States wind power capacity increased by 8% in 2018, according to the American Wind Energy Association, reaching a cumulative total of 96.5 gigawatts (GW), and supporting an industry which now boasts a record 114,000 jobs, over 500 domestic factories, and more than $1 billion a year in revenue for states and communities.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) published its US Wind Industry Annual Market Report, Year Ending 2018 report on Tuesday, proclaiming that the industry had “emerged from 2018 stronger than ever” as it now powers over 30 million American homes.
“Wind power’s record-breaking year shows our industry is leading the way to a cleaner, stronger 21st Century U.S. economy,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “America’s least expensive source of new electricity generation is also clean and inexhaustible, which gives our economy an edge in the global marketplace. We’re proud to report the wind industry employs a record number of Americans, supports a robust domestic manufacturing sector with over 500 factories, and contributes over a billion dollars a year to states and rural communities.”
Unsurprisingly, Texas remains the country’s leading wind state, ensuring that everyone knows the state only does things big. According to the AWEA, the Lone Star State is now home to around a quarter of all US wind power capacity and, if it were a country, Texas would rank fifth in the world for wind power capacity with nearly 25 GW installed.
“Texas continues to lead the nation, with hard work and ingenuity, in harnessing this great American renewable energy resource, literally out of thin air,” Kiernan added. “Texas has a long and storied history of energy production and as today’s report demonstrates, wind is an important part of the state’s energy success story. In many ways, the Texas wind story is the story of American wind power.”
Texas also boasted a further 7 GW of projects under construction or in advanced development at the end of 2018, which in turn means that Texas is not only leading the country’s wind industry in terms of capacity, but in terms of jobs and investment as well. Specifically, according to the report, Texas now boasts over 25,000 wind jobs while Texas wind farms have drawn over $46 billion in total capital investment to date, paying $307 million annually in landowner payments.
In fact, expanding out to the impact US wind has on the country as a whole, US wind farms are paying $1.05 billion a year through state and local taxes as well as lease payments to landowners. This includes $761 million paid a year in state and local taxes and a further $289 million paid a year in wind farm land lease payments.
“Communities across Texas and the nation feel the benefits wind power delivers,” said the AWEA’s Kiernan, speaking at the launch of the report at the Greater Houston Partnership, the chamber of commerce for the nation’s energy capitol. “Wind farm revenue enabled Blackwell Consolidated Independent School District, located near Abilene, Texas, to build a new school building, buy new technology, and provide scholarships worth $36,000 to students attending 1st through 12th grades. And that’s just one of the more than 100 districts in Texas that have seen the benefits of wind power in their community.”
State by State
Wind energy is now reliably providing over 20% of the electricity produced in six states — Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Maine — while, across the whole of the country, US wind generated 6.5% of all electricity delivered to consumers.
Looking forward, the AWEA expects to see more than 35 GW of new wind power capacity to come online across 31 states, while the country’s offshore wind industry is also ramping up, with six offshore projects amounting to 2.1 GW in development and expected to be operational by 2023. By the end of 2018, according to AWEA, project developers had a potential offshore wind pipeline of over 25.5 GW.
From a jobs point of view, the US wind industry added 8,500 jobs in 2018, helping to make wind turbine service technician the second-fastest growing job in the US after solar installer. Many of these new jobs are also well-paying, in wind turbine service, construction, engineering, and manufacturing, and veterans are being hired well above the average, 67% higher than the national average due in part to the fact that the country’s service men and women have the skills needed to operate machinery in the field under tough conditions. The US wind industry also boasts 24,000 manufacturing jobs at over 500 factories.
Finally, non-utility buyers bought more wind energy than ever before, including Fortune 500 brands, cities, and universities, all signing on to long-term contracts for a total of 4.2 GW, a 66% increase on the previous record set in 2015.