Boston, Mass. — Massachusetts can increase its wind energy production more than tenfold over the next five years, with huge benefits to the state’s environment, according to a new report released today by Environment Massachusetts. The growth in Massachusetts wind energy by 2018 would reduce carbon emissions as much as taking 130,000 cars off the road.
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.
“Across the country, wind energy is helping to fight global warming and cut down on harmful air pollution,” said Ben Hellerstein, field associate with Environment Massachusetts. “Over the next five years, we can vastly increase the amount of wind energy produced in Massachusetts. We need to make sure that there are the right federal policies in place to support the growth of wind power in our state.”
The report, Wind Energy for a Cleaner America II, shows that wind energy production in the United States has quadrupled in the last five years. In 2012, wind turbines produced 140,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity nationwide, equal to the electricity consumption of the state of Georgia. As a result of wind energy, 84.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution — as much as is produced by 17 million passenger vehicles — are avoided each year.
“Global warming is the single greatest threat to America’s wildlife this century, and conservationists are united behind offshore wind energy — an essential step toward protecting our wildlife and communities from the dangers of climate-disrupting carbon pollution,” said Catherine Bowes, senior manager for climate and energy at the National Wildlife Federation. “Offshore wind energy, including Cape Wind and Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm, can and must be developed in a wildlife-friendly manner.”
According to the report, Massachusetts will expand its wind energy capacity most rapidly by harnessing the state’s ample offshore wind resources, in addition to building wind turbines on land. Cape Wind, the proposed 420-megawatt project in Nantucket Sound, is set to be the nation’s first offshore wind farm.
“Cape Wind will help launch the U.S. offshore wind industry and make Massachusetts the North American leader in this exciting new energy sector,” said Mark Rodgers, communications director for Cape Wind. “It is important, as a nation, that we continue to provide incentives to attract commercial investments to help launch this new industry, just as has been done in other parts of the world where offshore wind farms are a reality.”
In Massachusetts, the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and other state policies are helping to promote wind energy development. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown offers certification for turbine blades, and the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford will support the construction of offshore wind projects like Cape Wind and ensure that the full economic and job-creation benefits are felt by the people of Massachusetts.
“Massachusetts is helping to lead the way in energy efficiency and solar power — now, we can be a leader in wind energy, too,” said Brian Swett, Chief of Environment and Energy for the City of Boston. “More wind energy production throughout the state will reduce air pollution, cut water use, and help Boston meet its Climate Action Plan goals.”
Nationally, the main federal incentives for wind energy — the investment tax credit (ITC) and the production tax credit (PTC) — are currently set to expire at the end of 2013. Uncertainty over the future of these programs has discouraged some developers from beginning new wind projects.
“Massachusetts can become a national leader for wind energy,” said Ben Hellerstein, field associate with Environment Massachusetts. “We cannot let polluters and their allies stand in the way of the benefits of wind. Senator Warren, Senator Markey, and the rest of our congressional delegation should do whatever it takes to extend federal wind incentives before the end of the year.”
Environment Massachusetts is a statewide, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water, and open spaces.