Wind Trumps Coal in U.S. Great Plains
Renewable energy is taking over a growing share of electricity demand in Great Plains states that were previously dominated by coal, largely because “the region that has for years burned the most coal also happens to be the windiest,” Bloomberg reports.
In Texas, wind generation is up almost tenfold since 2005, while coal consumption is at a 14-year low. “Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and the Dakotas have all seen a similar or starker rebalancing in a region known for its broad, flat terrain,” Parker and Eckhouse write.
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Across the U.S., according to the American Wind Energy Association, installed wind capacity is up from 9,000 megawatts in 2005 to 69,471 MW today, with another 13,250 MW under construction.
“The rapid emergence of wind is hurting coal in two ways. On breezy days, the fossil fuel must compete head to head against turbines powered by free wind,” Bloomberg notes. “When the wind fluctuates, natural gas-fired plants that can start up quicker than coal-burning units are often called in to make up for the lost power.” Wind alone is sufficient to displace 96.5 million tons of coal per year, about one-eighth of the country’s 2015 consumption.