Wind turbines across the Great Plains states produced, for the first time, more than half the region’s electricity this year as a boom in wind power production is turning states in the region into renewable energy powerhouses.
The power grid that supplies a corridor stretching from Montana to the Texas Panhandle was getting 52.1% of its power from wind, according to a statement from Southwest Power Pool Inc.
“Ten years ago we thought hitting even a 25% wind-penetration level would be extremely challenging, and any more than that would pose serious threats to reliability,” Bruce Row, Southwest Power Pool’s vice president of operations, said in the statement. “Now we have the ability to reliably manage greater than 50%. It’s not even our ceiling.”
The power pool operates 60,000 miles of power grid across 14 states. Texas leads the U.S. wind industry with more than 20GW installed, followed by Iowa, Oklahoma, California and Kansas, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
In response to the growth of clean power, governors across the country are urging support for renewable energy as a means of enriching impoverished farmers, creating jobs, and increasing tax revenue..
The Governor’s Wind & Solar Energy Coalition is seeking increased federal funding to modernize local power grids and boost clean energy research, according to a letter submitted to the White House. Since November, Republican governors in Illinois and Michigan signed legislation backing wind and solar.
“The nation’s wind and solar energy resources are transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the passage of the Homestead Act over 150 years ago,” Kansas Republican Sam Brownback and Rhode Island Democrat Gina Raimondo wrote in the letter, on behalf of eight Republican governors and 12 Democrat state leaders.
Clean power has been a boon in many rural regions. Rural property owners earn more than $245 million a year from leasing land to wind farm developers, according to the AWEA’s fourth-quarter report. Solar companies employed more than 200,000 people last year, and most new installations were in rural regions, according to the letter.