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The Wind Energy Industry in North America

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Wind Energy in North America

April 2012

Hugo Bettenmann, Frédéric Calatayud, Florian Girard

Table of Contents

Introduction 3

Global Situation in North America 4

Canada vs USA 5

Wind power in Canada 5

Wind power in the USA 6

Why USA? 8

Technological Review 8

USA Status 9

USA Objectives 12

Economical challenges and development 16

Production Tax Credits 17

Renewable Portfolio Standard 18

Environmental challenges / public resistance : 18

Benefits 19

Climate change and air pollution: 19

Water 20

Environmental impacts 20

Visual impact 20

Noise and land value 21

Impacts on the wildlife 22

Conclusion 23

References 23


Since the last decades, energy prices and environmental concerns have lead countries to rethink their energy policies, and develop diverse sources of clean and renewable energy.

The fast growth of the market for wind energy has been driven by different factors such as environmental concerns, increased by the climate change, as well as the technological advances.

Wind powered energy has been considered as a possible solution for many regions of the world, in order to answer to the increasing demand for energy, due to its basic form. Wind is a source of power virtually available everywhere, in opposition to other fossil-based energies, and implies no fuel costs and no geo-political risks.

Moreover, on an economical point of view, wind turbines require no fuel for generating power once it's built, which is a substantial argument for investors. In addition, job creation and regional economic growth are key factors to be taken into account when considering wind power.

But one of the major factor for the development of wind energy is of course based on environmental concerns. Wind power is a clean, emissions-free and renewable power generation technology. Its greatest advantage is that it doesn't emit any CO2, which could possibly lead to a decrease of pollution emission, and uses no water, which has to be taken into account in an increasingly water-stressed world.

Several possibilities exist for wind powering plants, there are wind farms, where wind turbines are installed in fields, or offshore wind plants, where turbines are installed in the sea. Of course there are some advantages and disadvantages to both options. For example, for public resistance regarding the landscapes, it would be preferable to have offshore wind turbines. On the other hand, for everything related to maintenance, wind farms are preferable. A tradeoff should be found in order to possibly satisfy both opinions.

As a response to all these points, governments around the world decided to take actions in order to increase the use of wind energy. In this report we'll focus on actions that were taken by the governments in North America, what kind of objectives were stated, what plans were decided in order to achieve these goals and how feasible they are.

In the USA, the Wind Program is developing the rapid expansion of clean, affordable, reliable domestic wind power to promote new job creation, increase rural economic development, and help meet nation's energy needs. The program manages the public's investment in wind technologies to improve the performance and lower the cost of wind power. Its main goal is that 20% of the US electricity is powered by wind energy by the year 2030.

In Canada, wind energy is the fastest growing renewable energy, and the objectives are more or less the same. The government's goal is that by 2025, 20% of Canada's electricity demand is provided by wind energy, and that by 2020, 40% of electricity demand will be supplied by renewable sources of energy.

In the next section, we'll have a deeper overview of the global situation in North America concerning renewable energy, and more specifically about wind energy and the objectives expected by the US and Canadian governments.

Global Situation in North America

In USA as well as Canada, the topic of use of renewable energy has lately become a bigger concern. The governments seem to have seen in wind energy an opportunity to generate clean electricity and decrease their pollution emission, as well as creating new jobs and economic development opportunities.

The recent growth in the use of renewable energy by these two countries may have been a response to a need for energy independence. At a time where the prices of fossil fuels are increasing, the idea of having their own source of electric power is attractive, not to mention the positive impact on the environment and the economy. As a result, the global use of all kind of renewable energy, also called clean energy, has been lately increasing.

In the United States, the majority of the energy comes from fossil fuels: about 40% come from petroleum, 20% from coal and 25% from natural gas. A bit less than 10% comes from nuclear power, and the rest is supplied by renewable energy. Among this quantity of energy used, about 25% is imported.

Thus, the production of renewable energy becomes attractive in the way that it can be produced "at home", decreasing de facto the need for importing energy, allowing for more energy independence.

For account, here is an array summarizing the energy consumption of the USA in 2008:

Supply source

Demand sectors

Petroleum 37.1%

Transportation 27.8%

Natural gas 23.8%

Industrial 20.6%

Coal 22.5%

Residential and commercial 10.8%

Renewable energy 7.3%

Electric power 40.1%



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