Wind Power Growth Complicates GOP Energy Politics

Nearly 90 percent of the new wind power capacity established in 2016 was located in states that backed President Trump in the election.

President Trump frequently vowed to support conventional energy production β€” particularly coal β€” rather than promote renewable sources during his bid for president.

But the recent growth of wind energy generation, especially in areas politically friendly to Republicans, made his position considerably more complicated since taking office.

The Wall Street Journal reports that of the new wind power capacity established in 2016, nearly 90 percent was located in states that sided with Trump in the election.

His administration, meanwhile, includes prominent wind energy supporters, including Energy Secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Texas famously leads the nation in oil production, but it is also the leader in wind energy.

In addition, although many congressional Republicans oppose the subsidies that helped the wind sector grow β€” it now supplies more than 6 percent of the nation's electricity β€” others believe that funding contributes to the nation's energy independence.

More importantly, the Journal noted, the wind industry employs more than 100,000 people β€” double the number that work in the coal sector β€” and its prices, already low compared to natural gas or coal, continue to fall.

Some states point to their own wind energy operations to help lure environmentally conscious companies. Iowa, which generates more than one-third of its electricity through wind, is home to data centers built by Google, Microsoft and Facebook.

One county in northwestern Indiana hopes to continue to capitalize on the industry. Officials in struggling Benton County considered a landfill project to bolster the local economy before opening its land to energy companies such as BP, Orion Energy, Patten Energy and EDF Energies Nouvelles in the past decade.

Those companies since poured millions into local infrastructure and tax coffers while creating hundreds of construction jobs and dozens of permanent wind technician positions.
β€œBenton County didn’t see the recession until 2011,” County Commission President Bryan Berry told the paper. "The wind industry helped keep things open."

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