Operating wind power capacity grew 9 percent nationwide last year, led by an expansion of 51 percent in New Mexico. That's according to the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) 2017 Market Report, released Tuesday, which shows wind energy is now the largest source of renewable electricity generating capacity in the U.S.
Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota drew at least 30 percent of their total power consumption from wind farms, according to the report. Fourteen other states relied on wind generation for 10 percent of their electricity needs. The report shows that more American homes and businesses use wind energy than ever before. The industry employs a record 105,500 men and women across all 50 states.
“American wind power reached new heights for energy generated and U.S. jobs in 2017," said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. "And don’t be surprised when the industry continues to break records."
The installation of 7,017 megawatts (MW) of wind in 2017 brings total U.S. installed wind power capacity to 88,973 MW, enough to power a record 27 million homes, AWEA said. That’s from just under 54,000 wind turbines operating in 41 states, Guam and Puerto Rico.
But New Mexico stood out, adding 570 MW of wind power capacity.
“You can see the future of American energy here in New Mexico, where our industry grew at a faster rate than any other state last year. It’s a place where wind farms and transmission lines are rapidly becoming staples of the economy, creating new jobs and bringing a wave of private investment to rural communities,” Kiernan said
Wind farms supplied over 13 percent of New Mexico’s electricity generation last year, enough to power over 422,000 average homes. The state now ranks 15th in the nation with 1,682 MW of installed capacity, and a wave of new wind investment will soon advance the state’s leadership.
Access to renewable energy, including abundant wind resources, was a key consideration in Facebook’s decision to triple the size of its New Mexico data center, representing a $1 billion investment and the addition of more than 200 MW of wind and 80 MW of solar investment.
“As consumers and major companies demand cheaper and cleaner power sources, our state stands to benefit and become an even bigger leader in this booming energy sector, especially in rural communities,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. “We should be doing everything we can to meet our state’s full potential as a wind energy powerhouse, from building new transmission infrastructure to investing in job training programs. I will keep fighting for policies that move New Mexico’s energy economy forward.”
Kiernan, meanwhile, says states are "where the action is happening for wind with our federal tax credit on an orderly path to phase out by 2019. Individual states’ policy choices and the strength of their infrastructure will play a big role in determining where wind power’s future growth is channeled.”
Wind projects or wind-related factories are present in 70 percent of U.S. congressional districts, including 75 percent of Republican districts and 62 percent of Democratic districts, according to the AEWA report. The wind industry invests heavily in rural communities, which host 99 percent of wind farms. Ranchers and farmers were paid an estimated $267 million in 2017 to lease private land for wind farm development, AEWA said.