Who needs Trump: State Policies driving huuje advances in Wind Power

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Anyone who is depressed about Trump’s sabotage of action to halt climate change should take heart from a remarkable development in Kansas.. Governor Sam Brownback, a little-government arch-conservative who has run the state into the ground and ruined its education system and been a disaster in every other way, has nevertheless been converted to the cause of renewable energy. He says he wants 50% of Kansas electricity to come from wind by the end of his term. The state already gets 24% of its electricity from wind.

The American Wind Energy Association said that Kansas will achieve 5,000 megawatts of wind power by the end of this year. The Southwest of the state is naturally endowed with strong and steady winds, and Kansas has already built new electric transmission lines to bring it to the cities where it is needed. The state has put $8.4 billion into wind energy.

The point is that these advances in clean energy are coming from the states, not the Federal government, and even conservative politicians and entrepreneurs are lining up for this gravy train. There is an enormous amount of money to be made in wind power, since once the turbines are installed, the fuel is free.

Wind energy generated 8% of the electricity in the US in 2016, and with several big projects in the works, that proportion is set to rise significantly.

The Broadview Wind Farm in Texas and New Mexico has just gone online, and it is providing 324 megawatts of electricity to California over long distance transmission lines, enough to power 124,000 homes.

There are more Broadview-like projects on the books. If Trump is the ultimate conservative billionaire, he has competition from the good kind. Philip Anschutz is building a 1,000-turbine wind farm in southwest Wyoming and also planning on selling the electricity to California, which must by law get half (and maybe 60%) of its electricity from renewable sources within 13 years. The Wyoming wind plant would help California since the wind blows strong there in the evening, when California’s own winds start dying down. Most of the permitting for the project has been issued.

Renewable energy now generates 800,000 jobs in the US (there are about 60,000 coal miners), and that number is set to skyrocket whether Trump likes it or not. Onshore wind farm work is the fastest growing job sector in the United States.

One area where the US has lagged way behind Europe is offshore wind. But there are 2.2 gigawatts of offshore wind energy in the US in only 9 years.

State goals for renewables like those of California and *gasp* Kansas will drive a lot of these wind installations. Those are goals Trump has nothing to say about. Oh, and the coal miners? Both Kansas and China are offering them retraining programs in the wind industry.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

America’s First Offshore Wind Farm-360 Degree View

10 Responses

  1. Good for Brownback. Let’s hope he’s not into wind power because he thinks “The Wizard of Oz” was a documentary film.

  2. Nice article. But some red states are specifically attacking wind power; putting in onerous setbacks/site restrictions based on wholly imaginary concerns about interfering with military flight training or radar, or “destabilizing” (make the language as vague as possible) the power grid. This in spite of THEIR rural constituents taking in major bucks for themselves and/or their communities by leasing the farm land. With the heavily-armed GOP, it always seems to be a question of how large a chunk of their own feet they are willing to shoot off. Yet, they seem to hold on to a LOT of districts…..

    • Yes, there is obstructionism, including Koch Brothers-inspired GOP penalties on solar panels in Florida of all places!! Still, the interesting fact is that the deep south frankly doesn’t have much wind and so most Red States can obstruct wind power without it meaning much for the country. And as for solar, you’re starting to see a conversion in the GOP in places like Georgia. I personally think legislative obstruction of green energy is a strategy of the 2010s made possible by the continued competitiveness of natural gas price-wise. As solar and wind electricity production costs drop through technological innovation, NG will no longer be able to compete and nobody is going to pay double for their electricity just to make Don and Chuck happy.

      • Even in the southeast newer generation turbines will become competitive. The key is higher hub heights, the wind gets stronger and steadier the higher up you go. Expect onshore wind generation to gradually spread to areas where it isn’t yet competitive.

  3. In Uk off shore wind generates as much as coal. The old arguments for blocking ship and aircraft radar are now unfounded. Fishing in the shallow waters in turbine farms is banned but with the unexpected bonus of these areas being a reserve for the fish. Increased catches resulting outside the wind farms. The world’s largest off shore turbines have just come on line in Irish Sea. One turn of the blade supplies power to run 30 houses for 24 hrs

  4. Oh, and the coal miners? Both Kansas and China are offering them retraining programs in the wind industry.

    I have read statements by former lumberman expressing their appreciation for retraining out of the forests and into work they find more rewarding for a variety of reasons.

  5. Anschutz is not the good kind. He’s another far-right family oligarch as bad as the DeVos/Prince clan.

    What we have with Anschutz and Brownback are the American version of India’s Modi: theocrats who have no oil and need both energy and good PR.

  6. One thing I barely ever see mentioned about climate change is the impact of factory farming on the environment. Individuals can make a much greater impact on the health of the earth by not eating meat or dairy and withdrawing their support for that model of agrobusiness.

    This is a great overview for anyone interested:

    link to ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

  7. 12 years ago drove my youngest daughter from Ohio to Colorado where she was entering Univ of Colorado as a freshman. From the highway we counted about 70 wind turbines in western Kansas counties (Russell was one of them) Six years later as I drove her back to Ohio from Colorado (of course many flights and visits in between) we counted around 450 wind turbines from the highway in the same regions (western Kansas) Three years ago drove my 89 year old mother (she wanted to do a road trip) from Ohio to Colorado we lost count of the wind turbines in Kansas. Not very scientific however clearly the increase was visible to the eye.

    Brownback moving Kansas forward with wind…good for him. As Juan has pointed Brownback backwards on many other issues.

    • There is a very good reason why every farm in the Midwest had a wind-powered water pump since the 1800s – a steady supply of water for the house and livestock..

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