for National Geographic News
U.S. citizens are beginning to come to terms with the country's energy needs and are finding an answer blowing in the wind, according to electric power industry experts.
"Last year, and again this year, wind is going to be the second largest source of new power generation coming online," said Christine Real de Azua, a spokesperson for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) in Washington, D.C.
Natural gas remains the leader in new generating capacity, but wind, which currently supplies less than one percent of the nation's energy, is booming, she adds.
This year alone, the industry is on course to add 3,000 megawatts of wind power generation. The country's total wind power capacity was just 2,500 megawatts in 2000, Real de Azua says.
A megawatt is enough electricity to power 250 to 300 average U.S. homes, according to AWEA.
This August, U.S. wind energy generation capacity breezed over a milestone of 10,000 megawatts. That's enough electricity to power at least 2.5 million homes.
Stephen Wilson is a renewable energy analyst with Xcel Energy in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He says increased awareness of the country's energy needs is helping drive the interest in wind power.
"With the cost of oil, the Iraqi war going on, and natural gas prices spiking up, I think people's consciousness of our energy position has probably hit an all time high," he said.
(See National Geographic magazine's "Powering the Future.")
And wind "is a very visible renewable energy resource," he added in reference to the wind towers, which can stand some 300 feet (91 meters) tall and have giant rotors spinning in the breeze.
In addition, Wilson and Real de Azua point out that the industry is racing to install and turn on new wind turbines before a tax incentive expires at the end of 2007.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES