March 27, 2011

Wind Energy Success

Lester Brown reports that between 2000 and 2010, world wind electricity generating capacity has increased from 17,000 megawatts to nearly 200,000 megawatts. 

The United States leads the world with 35,000 megawatts, followed by China and Germany with 26,000 megawatts each. 


Iowa is now producing 20% of its electricity with wind energy. Texas which has long been the leading producer of oil, is now the largest producer of wind energy, with 9,700 megawatts online. It plans to have 38,000 megawatts online by 2025, which would be enough to supply 90% of its electricity needs. 


Since wind turbines occupy only 1 percent of the land covered by a wind farm, farmers and ranchers can continue to grow grain and graze cattle on land devoted to wind farms. In effect, they double-crop their land, simultaneously harvesting electricity and wheat, corn, or cattle. With no investment on their part, farmers and ranchers typically receive $3,000 to $10,000 a year in royalties for each wind turbine on their land. For thousands of ranchers in the U.S. great plains, wind royalties will dwarf their net earnings from cattle sales.
In considering the energy productivity of land, wind turbines are in a class by themselves. For example, an acre of land in northern Iowa planted in corn can yield $1,000 worth of ethanol per year. That same acre used to site a wind turbine can produce $300,000 worth of electricity per year. This helps explain why investors find wind farms so attractive.
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