Environmental Studies Underscore Need for More Wind Energy

Recent studies that show acid rain causes damage to the environment, highlight the need for aggressive investments in wind power.

WASHINGTON, DC, US, 2001-05-03 <SolarAccess.com> “We are allowing some of our nation’s ecosystems to be battered by acid rain, and contributing to global warming, while part of the solution lies close at hand,” says Randall Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Association. “Clean air standards can be improved and new power brought on line without delay, by tapping an abundant, affordable, clean energy source – the wind.” The Hubbard Brook Research Foundation has published a report in the journal BioScience which shows that, while sulfur dioxide emissions have dropped since 1970, ecosystems are not recovering from the acid rain damage. The study concludes that SO2 emissions from electricity generation must be reduced by an additional 80 percent. Two studies on climate change conducted by the National Oceanographic Data Center and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and published in Science magazine, indicate a direct link between rising ocean temperatures and emissions of greenhouse gases. “The impact of electricity generation on these environmental problems can be reduced,” says Swisher. “With wind power, we can substantially lower air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions without constraining power supplies. This year’s record-breaking investments in wind farms demonstrate that the technology is ready to play an increasing role in the nation’s energy portfolio.” The U.S. wind energy industry expects 1,500 MW of new generating capacity to be commissioned this year, an increase of 60 percent. By the end of this year, wind farms will generate 10 billion kWh, displacing the emission of 40,000 tons of SO2, 24,500 tons of NOx, and 7.5 million tons of CO2. “Aggressive steps to sustain the wind industry’s high growth rate are in the nation’s immediate economic as well as environmental benefit,” adds Swisher. “A steep and steady increase in the use of wind power in the U.S. would help ease the pressure of soaring demand on the price of natural gas, the current fuel of preference for new electricity generation.” Around the world, wind energy capacity is 17,000 MW. Last year, 3,500 MW of new capacity was installed with an investment of $4 billion. In the United States, California has 1,646 MW of installed capacity, Minnesota has 272, Iowa has 242 and Texas has 188 MW. The federal government provides a tax credit of 1.5¢/kWh for electricity generated by a wind plant during its first ten years of operation, but that credit will expire at the end of this year unless extended by Congress. The cost of producing electricity from wind energy has declined from 38¢/kWh in the early 1980s to a current range of 3 to 6¢.

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