Wind Is Helping America Enter an Energy Revolution

The U.S. wind industry saw huge growth in 2015. The American Wind Energy Association announced this week that the industry installed more wind power than any other electric source.

The U.S. wind industry saw huge growth in 2015. The American Wind Energy Association announced this week that the industry installed 8.6 gigawatts of wind power — more than any other electric source last year.

This new wind-generating capacity trumps the 7.3 gigawatts of new solar photovoltaic and 6 gigawatts installed by natural gas.

Wind’s growth is being propelled by cost reductions of two-thirds over the last six years, which now makes wind the lowest-cost source of new generation,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “It’s one of the biggest, fastest, cheapest ways we can reduce U.S. carbon emissions, and the low-cost solution for power sector reductions.”

This report represents a huge growth for the American wind industry, which saw a 77 percent increase in installations since 2014. And wind is off to a good start in 2016. Reports show 9.4 gigawatts currently under construction and 4.9 gigawatts in advanced stages of development.

There's still more to be done if the U.S. wants to live up to the promises it made during the Paris climate talks. The U.S. Department of Energy says it's aiming for wind power to generate 20 percent of America's energy by 2030. We're getting there. So far, more than 4.5 percent of the nation's electricity is powered by wind.

Solar is making similar strides in America. When President Barack Obama took office, America had less than 2 gigawatts of solar power installed. At the end of 2015, it had more than 24 gigawatts.

Job growth from solar and wind industries has also boomed. Solar employs more than 200,000 people, making it bigger than the coal industry. The Department of Energy estimates “wind has the potential to support over 600,000 jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and supporting services by 2050.”

Bill Nye agrees, saying, If the state of West Virginia ... were to change from coal burning to wind energy and solar voltaics, ... they would have 50,000 jobs over at least the next 20 years.”

But there are those who have a lot to lose from this shift to renewable energy, so some utilities and the Koch brothers are attempting to block solar initiatives.


Photo Credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

Big Think
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Keep reading Show less
  • Oumuamua, a quarter-mile long asteroid tumbling through space, is Hawaiian for "scout", or "the first of many".
  • It was given this name because it came from another solar system.
  • Some claimed Oumuamua was an alien technology, but there's no actual evidence for that.

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less

7 fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Here are 7 often-overlooked World Heritage Sites, each with its own history.

Photo by Raunaq Patel on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites are locations of high value to humanity, either for their cultural, historical, or natural significance.
  • Some are even designated as World Heritage Sites because humans don't go there at all, while others have felt the effects of too much human influence.
  • These 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites each represent an overlooked or at-risk facet of humanity's collective cultural heritage.
Keep reading Show less