Think there's not enough solar and wind power in the U.S. yet? You're probably right. But let's give some credit: there's twice as much today as there was in 2008.
While the federal government's foot dragging on making real progress on climate change combined with the feeling that the promise of a clean-energy future is far from here may feel frustrating, two reports put out by the Department of Energy last week reveal just how far we've come in the past few years.
Some highlights from the reports:
- During Obama's first term, the amount of electricity generated by wind and solar power more than doubled. (Obama wants to double that figure again by 2020.)
- Turns out, wind energy is booming (sort of). Last year, wind power accounted for 43% of all new electric additions, making it the number one source of new electricity generation capacity for the first time.
- Wind energy now has the capacity to power more than 15 millions home. That's as many as in California and Washington, combined.
- The wind sector now employs more than 80,000 workers domestically, who make 72% of the wind turbine equipment used in the U.S., a number that's nearly tripled since 2006.
- Nine states now get more than 12% of their total annual electricity from wind power. Texas has the most gigawatts of wind energy installed of any state (making up for its lackluster performance in solar power).
These facts are just the highlights from the two reports, the 2012 Wind Technology Market report (PDF), jointly authored by The Energy Department and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the 2012 Market Report on Wind Technologies in Distributed Applications (PDF), by The Energy Department and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Despite the good news, a statement put out with the reports cautions that future years may not display such strong growth for wind. The report expects that 2013 "will be a slow year for new capacity additions, due in part to continued policy uncertainty and project development timelines." Things will pick up in 2014, but "projections for 2015 and beyond are much less certain."