The reliability of wind power

A Nov. 1 letter from Rolf Westgard, “Wind, solar power can’t be used as energy replacements,” inaccurately characterizes the growth of wind power in Minnesota and the rest of the country.

Federal tax incentives have helped all of our domestic energy industries to grow and produce the energy that our economy needs to function and prosper, both now and in the future.

Becoming overly reliant on any one fuel is unwise, particularly those which show major price volatility like fossil fuels, so wind energy is an important part of a diverse, secure energy mix. However, wind power is much more than a supporter to other energy supplies.

In fact, Texas faced acute power shortages twice in 2011 caused by dozens of fossil-fired power plants failing unexpectedly, while wind energy helped to keep the lights on by continuing to reliably produce. Although wind energy is not currently our highest energy producer, its production changes gradually and predictably, while failures at fossil and nuclear plants occur suddenly and without warning, making wind energy far less costly to integrate. A Department of Energy report found that reliable wind power can provide 20 percent of America’s
electricity.

The U.S. wind industry is maturing, hitting the 50 gigawatts milestones in 2012, and it is one of the only energy sources offering long-term contracts with locked-in power prices for utilities and consumers for 20 to 30 years, insulating them against risk.

The Department of Energy predicts American wind power is capable of supporting 500,000 more manufacturing, construction and other jobs over the next 20 years. That’s in addition to the 75,000 wind-related jobs existing already — and as of 2010, up to 3,000 jobs in Minnesota alone.

When the facts are considered, wind works in Minnesota and across the country. Wind energy must be a part of a cleaner, stable energy future.