Wind energy group cites state renewable standards for huge spike in capacity

Clearly, renewable energy standards (RES) – adopted by nearly 30 states, including Colorado – work. That’s the message at least that’s coming from the American Wind Energy Association, according to the New York Times.

The paper reported that in AWE’s annual report released today, the amount of wind-energy capacity added nationwide in 2009 set a new record at nearly 10,000 megawatts — the largest increase on record and an improvement of 18 percent over the previous record year of 2008.

Overall, the United States added 39 percent more capacity and is close to 2 percent of the national power grid coming from wind. Of course, that lags far behind the Euros (5 percent), where some countries like Denmark have already met a European Union goal of obtaining 20 percent of the continent’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.

That’s the state-mandated target for investor-owned utilities (which supply about 60 percent of Colorado’s electricity), but Democratic state lawmaker Max Tyler of Lakewood has introduced a bill that would up that to 30 percent by 2020, one of the most ambitious RES targets in the nation.

The big hurdle in the United States, according to the Times, is transmission. Getting wind and solar power from major production states like Texas, Iowa and Minnesota to either coast has been a major bottleneck. That’s true in Colorado as well, with key production areas (lots of wind, sun and wide-open spaces like the San Luis Valley) are hundreds of miles from Front Range population centers.

But other countries like China are finding ways to tackle the renewable energy problem under growing pressure to find alternative fuel sources to combat global warming, according to the Times, which seriously waters down the old arguments that if the United States leads the renewable charge, more populous nations like China and India won’t play along.

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