A recent article (“Minnesota Power to meet renewable quota 10 years early”) provided an excellent example of what many already know: Developing wind power saves consumers money.
In recent weeks, local utilities have been particular vocal about those changes. Minnesota Power noted that it’s “found a way to meet Minnesota’s renewable energy standard early and reduce costs at the same time,” while Northern States Power Co. CEO added that wind projects “offer lower costs than other possible resources, like natural gas plants. These projects offer a great hedge against rising and often volatile fuel prices.”
Similar statements are being echoed from Colorado to Oklahoma, consistent with analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration demonstrating that newly built wind generation is now cost competitive with all forms of electricity production.
Also, by displacing the most expensive, least efficient source of electricity on the utility grid — usually an older fossil-fueled power plant — added wind power directly reduces harmful air emissions. Wind energy’s lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions are a few percent of those of fossil fuels, lower than nuclear, and even lower than nearly all other renewable energy resources, according to a recent comprehensive study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Finally, by bringing economic development and added tax base to rural communities, American wind power is a significant economic growth opportunity. Already generating 14.3 percent of its electricity from wind power — and with excellent wind resources and a smart state renewable energy policy — Minnesota is quickly becoming a national leader in wind development.
Elizabeth Salerno is chief economist & director of Industry Data & Analysis for the American Wind Energy Association.
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