In celebration of American Wind Week, which kicked off on August 11th, we’re revisiting a blog post we published last year praising the many achievements of wind power. We’ve updated our thoughts from last September with a few new observations, but the sentiment stands: wind is (still) picking up speed.
A decade ago, wind energy mostly meant giant investments, ugly legal battles and major public opposition. As recently as four years ago, we saw proposals in many states being tossed out. Lack of public support combined with weak political legs dragged the highly visible CapeWind project through the dirt from its initial approvals in 2005, to 2017, when it was finally shut down.
Today, America’s wind industry is seeing record growth, with over 200 wind farm projects underway in 33 states. A record amount of wind capacity projects are currently under construction or in advanced development, reaching nearly 42 GW through the 2nd quarter of 2019.
US wind production has increased fivefold, with wind accounting for 6.9% of our overall energy use. That’s enough to power 24 million homes! These recent offshore approvals will continue to drive our regional energy use diversification and help many states in the region achieve ambitious carbon reduction goals.
So, what has changed?
- Politics – Many states have taken the initiative to support and even encourage offshore wind as part of their diversified clean energy future. Massachusetts has become one of the most progressive states advocating for wind energy and has committed to 1,600 MW of new offshore wind by 2027. In Rhode Island, the 400 MW Revolution Wind project will contribute to the state’s goal of 1,000 MW of clean energy by 2020, a tenfold increase from its previous goal. As recently as last month, the state of New York awarded multiple offshore wind contracts. The resulting projects will have the capacity to produce 1,700 MW of electricity, accounting for about 20 percent of the state’s overall goal for offshore wind.
- Economics – The expansive use of offshore wind in Europe has helped drive down costs for materials and installation. The more cost-effective it becomes for large installations of the turbines, the easier it will be to garner support. In addition, the success of European projects had laid a road map for US financial institutions to support these projects.
- Customers – Americans are more accepting of the changing energy scene. Look at the growth in acceptance of solar panels on roof lines that were once deemed “ugly” just a few years ago. As the economic and societal benefits have been quantified, customers’ excitement about the technology has as well. Offshore wind is going through the same rapid adoption curve. Where customers used to resist these efforts, they are now seeing the benefits and are growing increasingly interested in exploring wind technology options for themselves.
- Trusted brands – Some of the largest and most trusted brands are very vocal about their commitments to renewable energy. Apple has sourced 100% of their energy from renewable energy, while Google hit the same mark in 2017. Many other corporate mainstays have done the same. Consumer behavior shows that more than ever, customers are looking for their most trusted brands to take a stand on climate change.
- Recognized Benefits – Economists are successfully putting numbers to renewable energy industries. We’re seeing a more focused and emphatic voice reporting on the benefits to our workforce and to our overall economy. In Massachusetts alone, the legislation that approved 1,600 MW of offshore wind is estimated to have a total economic impact of $1.4 billion to $2.1 billion. This means between 7,000-9,500 new jobs in Massachusetts and a huge economic boost to many coastal communities.
While we may be a little late to the game (offshore wind started in Europe 20 years ago), and our start was small (Block Island Wind is a 30 MW project and the EU already has 16,000 MW of offshore wind), we have positioned ourselves on a runway filled with possibilities for wind to take off.
It’s our job to help our clients in their mission to deliver clean energy options and the right kind of messaging about it to their customers. Whether you are a utility company or an energy product company, there are some important lessons to take away from the continued development of wind power in the US:
- Customers need to be informed about the value of sustainable energy technologies and how it benefits them. Speak to specific audiences in value-based terms they will understand.
- Customers want to be engaged. They want to hear from trusted sources. They want to provide feedback. If you can engage customers, you can bring them along.
- Customers’ perceptions change, and they often change quickly. This is a time that we are seeing customers becoming more open to new energy choices and technologies, and we are helping our clients push the boundaries to bring their customers into a new era of energy.
Ready to tell your customers all about the incredible work you’re doing to make renewable energy even more accessible to them? We can help you navigate—or even initiate—the conversation. Get in touch today!