Chicago, IL – Wind energy is on the rise in Illinois and is providing huge environmental benefits for the state, according to a new report released today by Environment Illinois. Illinois’s wind energy is already avoiding more than 4.6 million metric tons of climate-altering carbon pollution – the equivalent of taking 971,000 cars off the road, while saving 2 billion gallons of water per year – enough to meet the needs of 63,000 people.
Thanks to its current and future benefits, wind power is a key component of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the carbon pollution fueling global warming 17 percent by 2020. The plan calls for an expansion of renewable energy, investment in energy efficiency, and the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
“Wind energy has given us a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving,” said Lisa Nikodem of Environment Illinois. “Now our state and national leaders need to take action to make sure we don’t leave this cornucopia of environmental benefits on the table.”
The report, Wind Energy for a Cleaner America, also shows that today’s wind energy in Illinois avoids 4,300 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxides and 5,400 tons of sulfur dioxide, which cause acid rain and soot.
The report shows that wind energy is now providing 7.7 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity in Illinois. If state and federal officials commit to continued progress, Illinois could reduce the carbon pollution equivalent of more than 780,000 passenger vehicles, and save enough water to meet the annual water needs of nearly 58,000 people.
Illinois’s recent progress on wind is the direct result of federal production tax credit (PTC) for wind power. Despite the clear benefits of wind and widespread bipartisan support for federal policies to promote renewable energy, fossil fuel interests and their political allies have vigorously opposed the extension of the PTC, which is currently set to expire at the end of 2013.
Clean energy policy is also threatened at the statehouse. Illinois’ Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) needs technical changes to ensure growth in wind and other clean energy sources continues in the state, but legislators have not acted on a bill pending in the state Senate that would achieve that goal.
“Wind power is a cost-effective source of emissions-free energy,” said Kevin Borgia, Public Policy Manager at Wind on the Wires, a non-profit group representing wind energy companies, environmentalists, rural development advocates and others. “This report points out even more reasons why the Illinois General Assembly needs to pass legislation reforming Illinois’ broken RPS law,” Borgia said.
“Wind energy is improving our quality of life in Illinois,” said Nikodem. “We cannot let polluters and their allies stand in the way of additional benefits of wind. The Illinois General Assembly needs to fix our renewable portfolio standards, and Senator Kirk needs to do whatever it takes to extend federal wind incentives before the end of the year.”
Environment Illinois is a statewide, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water, and open spaces.