By Dan McGuire, CEO, American Corn
Steering Committee Member, Wind Energy Works! Coalition
Energy is on the front page of
our nation’s papers again. From high prices at the gas pump to
bitter disputes over drilling in wilderness areas, Americans are
examining their “addiction to oil.”
Our national addiction to oil for
transportation fuels is only the beginning. We are addicted to
a fossil-fueled energy infrastructure for electric power
generation that is becoming more expensive every year. The
higher costs are reflected in our power bills, but also in
communities around the region where the impacts of energy
extraction activities are dividing friends and neighbors.
In 2004, Western Governors’
Association (WGA) member governors, representing 12 of the
nation’s 20 windiest states, endorsed the goal of seeking 30,000
megawatts of clean energy throughout the West by 2015. Because
of the West’s rapid growth in power demand, this clean energy
goal only represents a portion of the new electricity generation
capacity expected to be added by 2015.
The WGA set up eight
technology-specific task forces to examine how best to implement
the clean energy goals. These task forces looked at every
source of energy in the West and came up with comprehensive —and
important— recommendations on achieving the clean energy goal.
Though all of the clean energy
technologies studied by the WGA are important parts of the
West’s overall future energy portfolio, wind energy is perhaps
the technology that is most capable of meeting the WGA goal in a
rapid and cost-effective manner.
What do the WGA recommendations
do for clean air, jobs or energy costs?
Economic Opportunities: wind
energy provides new economic and employment opportunities for
rural and agricultural communities.
In the community of Lamar,
Colorado, for example, a new windfarm created over 350
construction jobs in this town of 8,800, along with at least 14
full-time permanent jobs. Many locals say that this project was
a "Godsend" for the economic benefits it provided to the
Stable energy costs: once a wind
energy project begins producing power, the cost is stable,
predictable and affordable over the life of the contract:
typically 15 to 25 years. This provides a critical and
unparalleled cost hedge against volatile fossil fuel prices,
protecting consumers, businesses and industry.
Domestic energy source: the
9,149 megawatts of our country’s installed wind capacity is
saving over half a billion cubic feet of natural gas per
day...taking some of the natural gas price pressures off
consumers while reducing energy imports from unstable or
unfriendly parts of the world.
Energy security: fuel for wind
electricity is not subject to price or transport disruptions.
The clean energy goals are essential as our nation seeks to
address rising costs of virtually all sources of energy.
Environmental certainty: wind
energy generation creates no emissions of pollutants or
greenhouse gases. This provides important certainty against
possible future regulatory actions on carbon dioxide or any
Saves water: Wind generates
electricity without water. In contrast, fossil fuel and nuclear
power plants use large amounts of water for cooling, competing
with municipalities, farmers and consumers.
Better power grid: A healthy
transmission grid ensures that the West can realize the benefits
that wind energy promises. What is more, with access to
transmission, wind energy projects can be built in a fraction of
the time of coal-powered stations.
The WGA will meet in June, when
governors will vote on these clean energy goals. The goals that
were visionary in 2004 are a necessity now, and the West cannot
afford to wait any longer. Wind energy can meet the governors’
challenge, and wind energy works!