Wind Power Juggernaut Really doing for 100K Workers what Trump only Promised

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Big news on the wind power front. First, it has emerged in the US as the number one renewable energy source, generating more electricity than hydro-electric for the first time. This milestone came in 2016 after 8,727 megawatts (MW) of new wind installations were activated. For all of the twentieth century, hydro-electric had been the largest source of renewable electricity generation. Wind generates 5.5 percent of US electricity today, a percentage that is destined to spiral up from there.

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Already, Texas gets 12 percent of its electricity from wind and there’s no end in sight. The industry has created thousands of jobs. Megan Murat writes poignantly about these upwardly mobile West Texas working families suddenly able to send their kids to college and to afford new homes.

Think about it this way: All those things Trump promised American workers during the campaign and then reneged on? Wind really is fulfilling those promises! There are already 100,000 wind energy workers (only 80,000 coal workers), and that number will triple in the next few years. By 2020, in only three years from now, Texas is slated to be the world’s fourth wind power giant after China, the US as a whole, and Germany.

So get this. The companies TenneT and Energienet.dk are planning to create two artificial islands in the North Sea and put enough wind turbines on them to generate 100,000 megawatts of power. High powered transmission lines will then take the electricity to Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Norway and Belgium. The exchange they are constructing for this purpose will allow these countries to trade electricity more easily.

Not only is wind powering homes, but there is now a move use wind turbines to propel big ships on the high seas. It is estimated that they could cut 10 to 15 percent off the fuel bill for cargo ships. Ironically, Royal Dutch Shell is one of the investors here. Shipping is responsible for as much as 4 percent of greenhouse emissions worldwide, and a single huge container ship can equal the emissions of millions of automobiles. So switching them over to solar and wind power is important to meet our goals of emissions reductions.

In February of 2017, Scottish wind turbines generated enough electricity every day to power 4 million homes. (Suck on that, Donald Trump). Here’s the kicker: Scotland only has 2.5 million homes. So the rest of the electricity went to England. And here’s an irony: The English Tory elite, who are in the back pocket of BP, are actually interfering in the greening of Scotland. Now that Scotland is seriously considering another vote on secession, both Brexit and England’s anti-renewables policies will loom large as considerations.

That’s right. The UK could break up in part because the English upper crust is stuck in the colonial 20th century and can’t let go of the glories of black gold.

Green energy is not only about how we get our electricity and is not only about forestalling climate change. It is altering our world, causing upward mobility in West Texas, causing massive infrastructure cooperation among the North Sea nations, and perhaps even reshaping entire countries.

One thing is sure. Leaders like Donald Trump who are not aboard the Renewable Energy Train are going to be left behind in the backwaters while others do the really big, earthshaking deals.

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Related video:

Amazon is building gigantic wind farm in Texas comprised of more than 100 wind turbines – TomoNews

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13 Responses

  1. Thank you for this update. The returns on wind power and other green energy sources are tremendous as you highlight in your post:

    “It is altering our world, causing upward mobility in West Texas, causing massive infrastructure cooperation among the North Sea nations, and perhaps even reshaping entire countries.”

    That green energy could delay, forestall, or ideally prevent climate change should be enough incentive for investment. While government investment in green energy would have been salubrious, as you have in earlier pieces private investment at this stage in both RD and production is tremendous. The geopolitical ramifications of green energy, while secondary to climate change, are still noteworthy as you highlight.

    Green energy has the potential to snip away at the unjustified and inhumane power of dictatorial regimes in the middle east. In two to three decades, can Saudi Arabia fully finance its budget through oil? It has the potential to be a solar energy hotspot, but still they would have to tax their population to finance their budget. Taxation would lead to the Saudi citizenry demanding democratic and civil rights that would demolish or severely curtail the monarchy.

    A Saudi Arabia that invests in it’s people, will be forced to obey basic human and international law. It won’t be able to wantonly destroy sections of Yemen, or finance extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. The people of the greater middle east would be far better off through such a development, and so would we. This development cannot come fast enough for our climate and the future of all life on this planet. It also cannot come fast enough for the indigent of this planet whose potential to succeed is curtailed through the actions of despots and unscrupulous businessmen whose only desire is to further enlarge their near bottomless coffers.

  2. “Leaders like Donald Trump who are not aboard the Renewable Energy Train are going to be left behind in the backwaters while others do the really big, earthshaking deals.”

    Part of my comment might appear ageist, and I struggle to avoid that aspect. The world has moved on in more ways than one. Both Trump and Clinton–though more Trump than Clinton–were set in such fossilized thinking. Green energy is going to become an important driver of the global economy. The internet and information technology is also going is also going to be a far larger piece of the global GDP. I really cannot see how geriatric individuals who cannot write an email on a computer, much less code, will be able to serve as effective leaders in a decade or two. I keep hoping that we’ll see a new type of leader (one that is truly feminist, technology savvy, green, and peace-loving) emerging every election cycle, but with the political forces so strong, my hopes might actually come to fruition.

  3. NPR recently interviewed the mayor of central Texas town that has gone 100% renewable, mainly with wind. He said “We love green energy, especially when it comes as green rectangles with Benjamin Franklin on them.” When they were negotiating the power purchase agreements with suppliers, they did NOT talk about climate change – it was mainly just good economics!

    • And that lack of talk about climate change is what delayed the whole process long enough that we still face disaster. If we had poured Pentagon money into this technology, as we successfully did into other past technological challenges, we might have gotten those super-sized wind turbines a decade earlier. Recall that 50 years ago we could build a giant bomber capable of going 2000 miles an hour, and land men on the moon, and we can’t do that now because our priorities changed.

      Our economics are only as good as the extent to which we prize future value over immediate gain. That’s called the “discount ratio”. And it looks like societies which discount the future more as they get older and more desperate to hold onto status quo power get overrun by more vigorous and optimistic societies that look at the numbers completely differently. For China to get to where it is in wind and solar power from where it was 10 years ago is the miracle. We’re no longer leading the way, we’re just one of the pack and more burdened than any of them by those who say there’s nothing to race for, that things are fine and nothing needs to change.

  4. One of the nice things about home solar/wind is that it’s decentralized. In these days of disgruntled people having the ability to easily purchase the materials needed to, say, take out high-power transmission lines, having decentralized electric power systems makes us less vulnerable.

    Oil? too easy to disrupt supply chains.

  5. While wind turbines work well in the Midwest, here in the Pacific Northwest no more wind farms are under construction; all the best sites have been taken.

    • Not every geographical area is rich in potential wind energy (likewise the US Southeast). There are transmission wires that will solve that problem. China is building thousands of miles of them to bring wind power down from Mongolia. But in any case wind is likely a temporary solution, and solar is the future, including solar technology that can get power on cloudy days.

    • There are other ways to place wind turbines. Out in the ocean, and flying overhead connected by power cables to the ground. The latter will take longer, but it will have the advantage of working everywhere.

  6. I was just doing some thinking about the electric car craze in which the thinking is that we will all be driving battery powered cars in 25 or 50 years. I think that such a dream is an evolutionary dead end.
    First of all the raw materails needed to make these batteries is lilmited and non renewable. So although the world might be able to sustain battery powered cars for some decades after that it will face a new crisis.
    What seems to be a better bet for a really permanent solution to our problem is an interconnected system of electric trains, subways, and streetcars. These modes of trainsportation can use direct access to the electric grid without the need of batteries as an intermediary. Furthermore since the chance of collision with these types of modes of travel is so much lower than with automobiles, as least the humanly driven kind, that the trains themselves do not even have to be built with steel. They could be built with renewable bamboo. Hex whose to say that with a little experimentation that a company could build a train out of bamboo even safer than one made out of steel due to the flexible nature of bamboo. Then only the motor might need to be built out of steel.
    OK I just remembered seeing a program about German trains being built with carbonfiber it might be tough for bamboo to top that.

    • Solar panels will become so efficient that we’ll just be able to put them on car roofs. Why you think the small batteries that will be needed at night are not practical is unclear to me but battery technology will also improve. Mass transport has drawbacks because many routes are not served, including most rural ones.

      • Wow I was not aware that solar panels could get so efficient as to power a (Smart) car from just the panels on the roof. I also was not aware that the battery to power the car at night would get so small that it could be classifed as small.
        I think that I had read though that the raw materials to make the most advanced batteries is currently found in only a few places. Even if we find more of these materials, say on the sea bed they are still not renewable. The quantities of these raw materials, what ever they are, may seem large now, yet to the people of the 18th century the forests of N. America and the Amazon seemed large. It did not take all that long to dispose of them. Therefore it seem wise to me that private autos be at least discuouraged. OK people living in Rural areas need them so they should be able to have them. By keeping the number of automobils small the raw materials that would otherwise be used to make 8 to 12 billion people mobil could be used for other purposes if it were neccessary. Furthermore if the electrical grid was decentralized, and in addition if the vehicles of public transportation could drive themselves there is no reason that rural areas would have to stay underserved by public transportation.

    • The amount of money pouring into self-driving car research may be greater than electric car research. Like it or not, the West is full of old people with big houses that can’t be too close together. They often hate cities and the people who live in them. They also want to preserve the illusion of self-sufficiency, so having the cars slowly take over more and more of the real driving over the years will fit well with their eroding resistance.

      Now the benefit of this is that EVs, robot cars, and car-sharing between them are each attracting huge investment and have great synergy between them. So those of us in the cities increasingly will be able to give up actual car ownership, but still have cars appear when needed.

      Right now GM is in cahoots with Lyft, the “other” ridesharing service, testing self-driving EVs in San Francisco, and working on a much bigger test program next year.

      link to greencarreports.com

      Now if these services become the replacement for car ownership among the next generation, we should expect that cars will be designed specifically for that purpose, meaning that they will not need to weigh 4000 pounds or travel long cross-country routes. In fact, once you get out of the car it probably will find a place to recharge itself, so it doesn’t need a big battery at all. The question remains as to whether the net energy use of this model is less than if everyone privately owned EVs, but this disruptive model could take over much faster and thus get gasoline-engined cars off the road far sooner. If these cars can get people to mass transit options faster, solving the last mile problem, then everyone should be happy. But ultimately, you can’t stop people from coveting convenience over the environment.

      • Super 390, that seemed to be a response to the comments that I made just above yours even though it was not labeled as such. I wanted to thank you for your comments which as always are well formed and well informed.

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