This WRI policy brief provides an overview of the wind power industry in the United States, including the current state of policy, economics, challenges, and common misconceptions. The brief includes a detailed discussion of available wind power products that corporate buyers can use to diversify their energy portfolio.

Executive Summary

Wind power is the fastest-growing form of renewable electricity and constitutes a substantial portion of green power products in the United States. Corporate energy buyers can incorporate wind into energy portfolios in a variety of ways: through utility-offered green pricing programs, renewable energy certifi cates (RECs), long-term power contracts, or on-site generation. In addition, corporate investment in wind projects provides other ancillary benefits, such as providing companies with a clean energy source that does not have any fuel costs. Wind power is here now, is proven, and is supported by many energy consumers across the United States.

Wind power faces a number of challenges, both perceived and real. In addition to concerns over the technical challenges of wind power, many corporations may not yet know how to integrate wind power into their energy purchasing strategies. Corporations may worry that visible debates and public support for some projects could be tempered by concerns about aesthetic values or potential effects on bird and bat populations. High up-front capital costs of these projects, combined with the challenge of transmission and integration of wind power into existing power grids, have dissuaded energy consumers from making direct investments in wind power. The market has been facing rising development costs due to increasing demand for wind turbines that has far exceeded supply, unfavorable exchange rates, and price increases in key commodities such as steel. Despite these cost trends, the market for wind power continues to grow, and there is certainly potential for further growth with expanding opportunities for corporate participation.

For corporate wind power purchases, one of the remaining critical issues is that existing policy does not fully account for the environmental benefits of wind power. Wind power has the potential to help corporations and the United States diversify into cost-competitive, clean energy technologies that address negative impacts from climate change, enhance energy security, and provide local employment.