Wind energy is an important tool needed to combat climate change. The U.S. has seen dramatic growth in wind electricity generation with an increase from 6 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2000 to about 338 billion kWh in 2020.
Research from Net Zero America (NZA) identified various pathways which would lower U.S. emissions to net zero by 2050. Findings show that states like Texas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska could potentially lead in total onshore wind capacity and jobs. New York, New Jersey, Maine, and Massachusetts are likely to lead in total offshore wind capacity.
Read more about wind energy in Climate Central’s newest Solutions Series brief: wind energy. It provides data, resources, and story suggestions to help tell compelling stories on wind energy within local communities.
Wind energy is among the crucial solutions needed to combat climate change. The U.S. has seen dramatic growth in recent years after lagging behind Europe and Asia in developing wind energy generation. With advanced technology and lower costs, wind electricity generation has increased from 6 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2000 to about 338 billion kWh in 2020. Today, wind turbines make up 8.4% of the total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation.
And there is more room to grow. Offshore wind, primarily along the East Coast, is both vast and virtually untapped. According to Environment America (EA), the U.S. has the potential to produce more than 7,200 terawatt-hours per year of electricity from offshore wind. (A terawatt-hour is one billion kilowatt-hours). This is nearly twice the amount of electricity the U.S. consumed in 2019.
Looking towards the future:Net Zero America (NZA), a research initiative by scientists and engineers at Princeton University, identified various pathways which would get the U.S. to net-zero emissions by 2050. The E+, or high electrification scenario, explored the potential for wind capacity and jobs and found the following:
Texas, which is already the largest producer of wind energy in the U.S., could continue to lead the country with more than 180 gigawatts installed by 2050.
Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska could each become home to more than 100 gigawatts of wind energy by 2050.
For offshore wind energy generation, New Jersey, New York, Maine, and Massachusetts could be the biggest producers.
By 2050, more than 130,000 people could be working in the wind energy industry in Texas, and more than 50,000 each in some Midwestern states like in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska.
Looking at jobs by population, the rural states of Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, and Iowa could expect more than 200 jobs for every 10,000 residents.
Wind energy has a number of benefits to society. By replacing fossil fuels, clean wind energy can improve air quality by replacing coal or gas plants, add resilience to the grid, and become a growing source of jobs, especially in rural areas. But future growth will depend on transmission line infrastructure, new technology, and local, state, and federal policies.
POTENTIAL LOCAL STORY ANGLES
What is the wind energy potential near me?
Climate Central's WeatherPower tool uses forecast weather conditions to project how much daily wind and solar electricity will be generated anywhere within the U.S. It generates easy-to-read graphics in English and Spanish.
Where are wind energy farms near me? How does my area decide where to site a new wind project?
Take a look at which wind farms are near you by searching the U.S. Wind Turbine Database. Nearly 70,000 wind turbines and their capacity are detailed on the website’s map or through a search entry. To understand how your state decides who (state, local, or hybrid) has the authority to place a new wind farm, check out the interactive map from the National Conference of State Legislatures. Reach out to the operators of these wind turbines and to labor unions in your area to find wind technicians to profile.
What are the wind energy incentives and policies in my state?
Wind Exchange (Energy.gov) - Wind Energy Policies and Incentives Ordinance Database
How can I find local wind job training programs in my area?
The Energy Department publishes a database of nearly 200 such organizations nationwide on its searchable WINDExchange website and has a long list of careers within the sector. Reach out to instructors at these institutions and ask to interview them and their classes, some of which take place on campus turbines. Instructors may also be able to introduce you to graduates working in your area.
Check out Solutions Journalism to read what your peers are reporting about wind projects, nearby and around the world:
Solutions Journalism Network is a non-profit organization that trains and supports journalists to report on how people are responding to the world’s largest social issues through rigorous evidence-based reporting. Use the Solutions Story Tracker to discover the different solutions stories for wind energy.
The SciLine service, 500 Women Scientists or the press offices of local universities may be able to connect you with local scientists who have expertise on carbon emissions in your area. In addition, the American Association of State Climatologists is a professional scientific organization composed of all 50 state climatologists.
Eric Larson, Ph.D. Senior Research Faculty Member, Energy Systems Analysis Group
Princeton University, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
Expertise: Energy systems analysis, advanced clean-energy technologies
The Net-Zero America research identifies five distinct technological pathways, using technologies known today, by which the United States could decarbonize its entire economy. The information in this release is based on one of the pathways, the High Electrification (E+) scenario. Scenarios were constructed by imposing differing assumptions about the pace of electrification and constraints on the deployment of different energy sources over time, subject to the requirement that any carbon emissions remaining in 2050 are being balanced by removal of an equivalent amount of carbon from the atmosphere.