Welcome to the 5,000-MW Club, Kansas
There’s a new club in town, and another U.S. state has recently joined. The “5,000-Megawatt Club” has an exclusive membership of only five states so far. For entry, each one must officially exceed 5,000 MW of wind-generated capacity.
The most recent honor goes to Kansas, which grabbed fifth spot thanks to adding the 178-MW Bloom Wind Farm to its portfolio in June (ahead of schedule and with construction costs below budget). Otherwise, Texas is in a league of its own with over 21,000 MW of wind. Iowa and Oklahoma each have well over 6,500 MW, and California has over 5,500 MW.
Illinois is working hard to take the sixth seat at the 5,000-MW table. Currently, the state has just over 4,000 MW of wind capacity, and will add 278 MW once construction crews finish the Twin Forks Wind Farm this year. Another 175 MW or more will be added with the HillTopper Wind Energy Project in 2018.
So, along with decent winds, what does it take to actually make the 5,000-MW club?
For starters, your state has to want to join the club and policy is one way to prove it. For example, Kansas shows no signs of stopping at the 5,000-MW mark and has set a target of 50% renewables by January 2019, which is one of the most aggressive renewable-energy policies in the country.
In Illinois, state Senator Don Harmon is fighting to remove a wind-energy inhibiting provision in the Future Energy Jobs Bill that he says would initiate $2.2 billion in wind-farm construction. According to Harmon, the provision has put some projects on hold that are already permitted. A change in legislative language just may guarantee the state that sixth seat in the club.
For Texas, success in wind has come from a free electricity market and strong transmission infrastructure that supports it. For example, the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) lines have let the state double its use of wind energy. ERCOT, the main grid operator in Texas, has regularly set wind-generation records on its system because of CREZ.
California also has transmission grids that can support renewables, and a mix of them. In fact, on May 13, 2017, the California Independent System Operator managed to get 67.2% of its energy from renewables. While a good portion of that energy is attributed to a strong solar market, California refuses to shy away from wind. The state even set a new wind-generation record on May 16, 2017 of 4,985 MW.
It takes bold moves to make the club. New York’s Governor Cuomo recent proposal for an unprecedented commitment to develop up to 2.4 GW of offshore wind power by 2030 is the largest commitment in U.S. history. New York has yet to make the 5,000-MW club, but with big plans such as the one proposed, NY may soon become a contender. (Gov. Cuomo is initially pushing for a 90-MW offshore wind project 30 miles southeast of Montauk, and then for wind developer Statoil’s 800-MW project south of the Rockaway Peninsula.)
Members of the 5,000-MW club know that it takes policy pushers, determined developers, well-made turbines, reliable transmission grids, and a strong wind industry to succeed. It also takes talent and ingenuity because wind farms could not operate without the people behind these facilities.
On that note, I’d like to propose a little milestone club of our own here at Windpower Engineering & Development. This is not a megawatt club but still one of honor and distinction. The magazine you are holding is Editorial Director Paul Dvorak’s 50th issue of Windpower Engineering & Development, a publication that he designed from scratch, with heart, and for the wind community. He’d likely attribute its success to his years as a mechanical engineering or two-plus decades of technical writing and editing experience. This is true, but Paul also brings unmatched character, integrity, dedication, and hard work to the table.
Therefore, let us officially inaugurate Mr. Paul Dvorak to Windpower Engineering & Development’s Club of Honor. For 50 great issues and years of hard work. Raise your glasses now and let’s set a goal for 50 more great issues — and plenty of new wind projects to discuss in the future.