ico-electricity [ GWh of Electricity Added: ] 77K
ico-job [ Jobs Impact: ]
  • LOW
  • HIGH
ico-cost [ Budget Impact: ]
  • LOW
  • HIGH
ico-pollution [ Conventional Pollutants Reduced: ]

SO210,163 tons
NOx 8,390 tons
Hg .137 tons
PM 1,558 tons

ico-reduced [ Megatons of GHG Reduced: ] 74.3


Like rivers that flow through dams, the kinetic energy in wind can be captured and turned into power. Currently, there are 46 gigawatts of wind capacity installed in the U.S.1 Still, much room for growth remains. According to a recent report by the Department of Energy, the potential of wind is equivalent to ten times the current total electricity capacity of the U.S. today.2 Unlike fossil fuels or nuclear, once built, wind power requires no additional fuel costs,3 providing a hedge against volatile coal and natural gas prices in this age of market instability and global trade. Furthermore, wind generation produces no greenhouse gasses or harmful pollutants. Yet, despite these benefits, more can be done to encourage wind development.


The wind industry has been growing quickly. In 2010, 5,000 new megawatts of wind were installed4 and 75,000 Americans worked in the U.S. industry.5 Wind turbines have an increasing amount of American content as the American supply chain develops, with as much as 67% made in the United States.6 But the industry still faces problems of cost, siting, and grid access that adversely impact the future of wind. Today the “levelized cost”7 of energy for wind is nearly 150% that of natural gas.8 Furthermore, new projects on federal land face regulatory burdens that impede progress.

Government incentives remain critical in the short-term for the widespread deployment of wind. Whether it is an extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC), the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), or new, stepped-down policies, the federal government should continue to support the wind industry until it scales to a competitive level. If these policies are adopted, they could add roughly 2 additional GW of wind every year through 2025, enough new electricity each year to power at least 1.5 million homes.9 That is about the same amount of power that is needed by all residents in West Virginia and Iowa combined.10 Assuming the new turbines replaced coal, the 26 GW of wind that could be added by 2025 would eliminate as much as 75 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions.11 And wind produces no conventional pollutants (like nitrogen and sulfur oxides, mercury, and particulate matter), so increasing wind by this amount could remove as much conventional air pollutants every year as produced by about 19 average-size coal plants.12


To ensure wind energy continues to grow across the nation and especially in the Midwest, the federal government should adopt policies that channel funding to wind asset development and streamline the process of approving licenses for transmission and generation projects.

Encourage Wind Development Through Power Marketing Administrations

In 2005, Congress passed strong bipartisan legislation aimed at increasing a diverse portfolio of energy sources. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT)13 authorized DOE through the Western Area Power Administration or Southwestern Power Administration to finance wind projects.14 This section also allows those power marketing administrations (PMAs) to accept third-party financing of such projects. Yet the PMAs have failed to make reliable use of this funding mechanism to date, something acknowledged by DOE.15 Congress should pass legislation to clarify and strengthen EPACT’s intent and encourage the PMAs to work with third parties.

Redirect Revenue from Licensing Public Land Use

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has a responsibility to develop renewable energy projects on public lands. However, permit processing and other activities needed to deploy renewable energy on BLM lands often do not have the required funding to process applications in a timely manner. Directing a portion of right-of-way authorization fees16 would provide a steady stream of funding for the review of applications. Language introduced by House Republicans in 201217 would provide this needed regulatory fix. This would be a bipartisan approach and would modernize the permitting process for wind projects.

Develop Offshore Wind Tax Credit

Offshore wind offers an excellent opportunity to harness a steady source of naturally occurring energy. While expensive to build, the long-term cost of offshore wind, coupled with its zero emission rates, make it an extremely efficient energy source to power the economy of coastal states. Furthermore, support for offshore wind has been bipartisan. Sens. Carper and Snowe coauthored a bill to amend Section 48 of the Tax Code to create an investment tax credit for the first 3,000 MW of offshore wind capacity installed. The bill has again been introduced in the 113th Congress, with Sens. Carper and Collins leading the effort.18 This measured approach should have a limited cost while providing adequate incentive to stimulate offshore wind development.

Encourage New Transmission Corridors

The U.S. has more than ten times our current electrical generation capacity in potential wind capacity and most of that resides in the Midwest.19 Yet very few lines run from areas where these wind assets can be built to the population centers that need more, cleaner electricity. The federal government can take several steps, including reforming the transmission siting process, accelerating interstate transmission compacts,20 and providing financing incentives and revenue-sharing to build transmission lines. These policies will be covered in the PowerBook’s Electricity Transmission Component, which focuses on modernizing the American transmission system built decades ago, long before centralized solar was developed.

Master Limited Partnerships

Inclusion in Master Limited Partnerships could open up cheaper and earlier financing options for geothermal energy. Master Limited Partnerships are covered in the Clean Energy Financing Component.