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New Energy Economy Emerging in the United States

Wind, solar and geothermal are replacing coal and oil at a terrific rate.

| October 2008

  • Renewable Energy Economy
    States such as Texas and California are already national leaders in the movement toward alternative fuels, but many more states are jumping on the proverbial bandwagon and adding their own green power arrays.

  • Renewable Energy Economy

As fossil fuel prices rise, as oil insecurity deepens, and as concerns about climate change cast a shadow over the future of coal, a new energy economy is emerging in the United States. The old energy economy, fueled by oil, coal and natural gas, is being replaced by one powered by wind, solar and geothermal energy. The transition is moving at a pace and on a scale that we could not have imagined even a year ago. 

Consider Texas. Long the leading oil-producing state, it is now also the leading generator of electricity from wind, having overtaken California two years ago. Texas now has nearly 6,000 megawatts of wind-generating capacity online and a staggering 39,000 megawatts in the construction and planning stages. When all this is completed, Texas will have 45,000 megawatts of wind-generating capacity (think 45 coal-fired power plants). This will more than satisfy the residential needs of the state’s 24 million people, enabling Texas to feed electricity to nearby states such as Louisiana and Mississippi.

After Texas and California, the other leaders among the 30 states with commercial-scale wind farms are Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, and Colorado. And other states are emerging as wind superpowers. Clipper Windpower and BP are teaming up to build the 5,050-megawatt Titan wind farm, the world’s largest, in eastern South Dakota. Already under development, Titan will generate five times as much electricity as the state’s 780,000 residents currently use. This project includes building a transmission line along an abandoned rail line across Iowa, feeding electricity into Illinois and the country’s industrial heartland.

Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz is developing a 2,000-megawatt wind farm in south central Wyoming. He already has secured the rights to build a 900-mile high-voltage transmission line to California. With this investment, the door will be opened to developing scores of huge wind farms in Wyoming, a wind-rich state with few people. Another transmission line under development will run north-south, linking eastern Wyoming’s wind resources with the fast-growing Colorado cities of Fort Collins, Denver and Colorado Springs. Wind-rich Kansas and Oklahoma are looking to build a transmission line to the U.S. Southeast to export their wealth of cheap wind energy.

California is developing a 4,500-megawatt wind farm complex in the Tehachapi Mountains northwest of Los Angeles. In the east, Maine — a wind energy newcomer — is planning to develop 3,000 megawatts of wind-generating capacity, far more than the state’s 1.3 million residents need. Further south, Delaware is planning an offshore wind farm of up to 600 megawatts, which could satisfy half of the state’s residential electricity needs. New York State, which has 700 megawatts of wind-generating capacity, plans to add another 8,000 megawatts, with most of the power being generated by winds coming off Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. And soon Oregon will nearly double its wind generating capacity with a 900-megawatt wind farm in the wind-rich Columbia River Gorge.

Wind appears destined to become the centerpiece of the new U.S. energy economy, eventually supplying several hundred thousand megawatts of electricity.

Hawaiian Healer
11/15/2008 10:20:32 AM

with the wind farms, does the local governments or state government get any money per kilowatt of energy produced? For gas and oil production the local and state government collect a fee.. Visualize yourself living next to a 500 wind generator farm. I think they are beautiful. (I do wish they would come in different colours), but why shouldn't the local government not collect a small tax on the energy produced, just like they do in oil and gas. That would encourage more production of energy sources in those states. The other issue is how many people want all those new power transmission lines run thru their area to provide energy for someone 300 miles away? When will the environmental groups "encourage" Senators Kennedy and Kerry to support the wind farm of the coast of Massachusetts? I live in Idaho I look forward to the development of the Geothermal power that would be available 24/7. Idaho is suppose to have 250+ areas that could be developed that way..

Loren West
10/29/2008 10:19:18 PM

While I do not enjoy rising fuel prices, I realize they helped speed-up our need to invest in altenative energy sources. I'm certain there is a specialty-niche of readers who care about the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels. For me, not so much. But, if you'd like to garner even more support for alternative energy, just repackage and remarket this article to a larger and more easily motivated audience - those of us that want to disassociate ourselves with Arab Muslims (and for good measure the Persians, Venezuelans and Mexicans). Do that and you'll have us Rednecks become "Greennecks" by recycling our junk cars into windmills and solar panels. Yee Haw...Long Live Mother Earth! hillbilly6977 Bruce, WI

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