Helena, MT – Wind energy is on the rise in Montana and is providing huge environmental benefits for the state, according to a new report released today by Environment Montana. Montana’s wind energy is already avoiding more than 748,831 metric tons of climate-altering carbon pollution -– the equivalent of taking 156,006 cars off the road, while saving 334,569,500 gallons of water per year -– enough to meet the needs of 8,184 people.
“As a rancher and Montanan, I support significant investments in Montana wind,” said Lieutenant Colonel Rich Leibert, owner of Wind Walker Ranch. “Developing our tremendous wind resources helps keep clean water in our rivers and streams. This water is critically important for farmers and ranchers all over the state.”
Thanks to its current and future benefits, wind power is also a key component of the EPA’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 done a lot for the state of Montana already,” said Anneli Berube of Environment Montana. “Now, our state and national leaders need to take action to make sure we continue to reap the benefits of this industry.”
The report, “Wind Energy for a Cleaner America,” also shows that today’s wind energy in Montana avoids 704 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxides and 869 tons of sulfur dioxide, which cause acid rain and soot.
“Wind power has provided major economic benefits for Montana -– including clean energy jobs and investment in our local economy,” said Kyla Maki of the Montana Environmental Information Center. “Let’s not dismiss the important environmental benefits. The water savings are critical to our local environment and our economy.”
The report shows that wind energy produced at least 1,238,000 megawatt-hours (mwH) of electricity in 2012, enough to power nearly 100,000 homes in Montana. If state and federal officials commit to continued progress, Montana could reduce the carbon pollution equivalent of more than 145,630 passenger vehicles, and save enough water to meet the annual water needs of nearly 8,730 people.
Montana’s recent progress on wind is the direct result of the state’s renewable energy standard– and federal incentives 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 these initiatives.
The main federal incentives for wind –- the investment tax credit (ITC) and the production tax credit (PTC) -– are currently set to expire at the end of 2013.
“Wind energy is improving our quality of life in Montana,” said Berube. “We cannot let polluters and their allies stand in the way of additional benefits of wind. Sen. Max Baucus needs to do whatever it takes to extend federal wind incentives before the end of the year.”
Environment Montana is a statewide, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water, and open spaces.