Climate change poses one of the biggest threats to human health and the environment the world has ever faced.
Wind power is looking more and more like one of the best solutions.
Why? Climate change is caused in large part by burning coal, oil and natural gas to meet our energy needs. Burning these fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide (CO2), a gas that wafts up into the atmosphere and just stays there, creating a sort of gaseous blanket that causes the earth to heat up below it.
We need energy, of course, but we don’t need all that CO2. That’s where wind makes a big difference. Wind turbines also produce power, but with almost no CO2 impact.
The U.S. generates more wind power on land than any other nation. You may have seen wind turbines on farms in the Midwest or on mountain ridges in West Virginia and California. That’s all well and good.
But almost 80 percent of our nation’s energy demand comes from the highly populated areas that flank our coasts: the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. The National Offshore Wind Strategy developed by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of the Interior has laid out a vision for developing our coastal or “offshore” wind resources because they project we could generate twice as much electricity as we actually need if we took advantage of the wind power on our coastlines – and get it to most of the Americans who need it. All without causing our climate to change.
There are many other benefits to developing wind power, as well. In addition to not emitting carbon dioxide, wind power doesn’t spew sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and fine particulates the way burning coal does, so it will help keep the air cleaner and people healthier. It’s a “homegrown” domestic energy source, so it reduces our dependence on fuel imports. More wind energy will help the United States meet the climate reduction commitments under the Paris Climate Conference and Pres. Obama’s America’s Clean Power Plan. And since it can be produced so close to where people live, a lot of electricity won’t be wasted the way it currently is, during the transmission from where fuel is burned to where it’s used.
The first offshore wind plant is slated to open off the coast of Rhode Island this month, and more will follow. Eleven additional offshore areas have been leased to wind energy developers. As environmental impact statements are completed along with economic feasibility studies, these projects will start coming on line.
The timing is right – not only because we’ve surpassed the 400 ppm (parts per million) of CO2 in the atmosphere that scientists say could create catastrophic climate change, but also because many fossil fuel and nuclear power plants are set to retire due to age, cost, or as part of the move toward lower-carbon sources of electricity.
Land-based wind energy generation in the U.S. has increased nearly 60% while utility-scale solar generation increased more than 1300% relative to 2011. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Vision has set a goal of wind delivering 35% of total U.S. electricity by 2050. With both offshore and onshore wind projects coming online, that goal seems well within our reach. That’s good new for the environment, and good news for our families.