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Renewable Energy Push Is Strongest in the Reddest States



The Smoky Hills Wind Farm outside Lincoln, Kan. Last year, Kansas generated more than 30 percent of its power from wind.

Credit Christopher Smith for The New York Times

Two years ago, Kansas repealed a law requiring that 20 percent of the state’s electric power come from renewable sources by 2020, seemingly a step backward on energy in a deeply conservative state.

Yet by the time the law was scrapped, it had become largely irrelevant. Kansas blew past that 20 percent target in 2014, and last year it generated more than 30 percent of its power from wind. The state may be the first in the country to hit 50 percent wind generation in a year or two, unless Iowa gets there first.

Some of the fastest progress on clean energy is occurring in states led by Republican governors and legislators, and states carried by Donald J. Trump in the presidential election.

The five states that get the largest percentage of their power from wind turbines — Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma and North Dakota — all voted for Mr. Trump. So did Texas, which produces the most wind power in absolute terms. In fact, 69 percent of the wind power produced in the country comes from states that Mr. Trump carried in November.

Renewable energy that produces no carbon dioxide emissions is not solely a coastal, blue-state phenomenon. From Georgia to the Dakotas, business and political leaders are embracing clean energy sources even as the Trump administration pushes for more exploitation of oil, gas and coal.


These red states are not motivated by a sudden desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nor are they joining solidly Democratic New York, Washington and California in defending the Paris climate agreement that President Trump walked away from last week. Instead, their leaders see tapping the wind, and to a lesser degree the sun, as an economic strategy.

Red States Lead the Way on Wind

States won by Donald Trump in 2016 are shown in red, those won by Hillary Clinton in blue.

State Power generated from wind Total wind MWh (millions)
Iowa 37% 20.4
Kansas 31% 15.1
South Dakota 29% 3.2
Oklahoma 28% 21.4
North Dakota 23% 8.8
Minnesota 18% 10.9
Colorado 17% 9.3
Maine 16% 1.8
Vermont 16% 0.3
Idaho 14% 2.3
Texas 13% 61.0

Wind power generation estimates over 12 months, April 2016-March 2017. Mrs. Clinton won three of Maine’s four electoral votes in 2016. Source: Energy Information Administration

The New York Times

The clean energy push allows their utilities to lock in low power prices for decades, creates manufacturing jobs, puts steady money in the hands of farmers who host wind turbines, and lures big employers who want renewable power.

“We export lots of things, and in our future, I want us to export a lot of wind power,” Kansas’ conservative Republican governor, Sam Brownback, declared in a speech in 2011. “We need more of it, and we need more of it now.”

Mr. Brownback got what he wanted: Since he spoke, wind power production in Kansas has nearly tripled, and the state is now an exporter of clean electricity.

Whatever the motives, the push in the red states does help to lower emissions, which means their goals tacitly align with those of blue states worried about global warming.

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Even as Wind Power Rises, It Falls Under a Political Cloud

As utility operations increasingly avail themselves of wind, the Trump administration looks at whether

conventional sources have been placed at a disadvantage.


Wind farms, with their rapid geographic spread and technological advances, are reshaping the electric system, defying skepticism that they are steady or reliable enough to displace conventional power plants.

“The fuel of choice right now, certainly for us, is wind,” said Ben Fowke, the chief executive of Xcel Energy, which shut down a large natural-gas plant in Colorado for two days in January and let wind fill, on average, half of its customer demand.

Now politics, not skepticism, may be wind power’s biggest barrier. Under new leadership with ties to conventional energy interests, the Energy Department is scrambling to complete an internal study in the next month that could lead to an upending of the policies that fostered the rapid spread of solar and wind.

Wind Projects in the United States

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California grid sets record, with 67% of power from renewables

By Dominic Fracassa Updated 5:10 pm, Thursday, May 18, 2017

A stretch of sunny, windy days, combined with brimming reservoirs at hydroelectric plants across the state, helped California reach a renewable energy milestone last weekend.

Early Saturday afternoon, renewable sources produced a record 67.2 percent of the electricity on the portion of the state’s power grid controlled by the California Independent System Operator. That figure does not include large hydropower facilities, which added another 13.5 percent. Based in Folsom, the ISO runs 80 percent of the state’s grid.

More than half of the renewable energy flowing across the grid at that moment on Saturday came from large solar facilities and wind farms. The ISO’s numbers do not even account for electricity from rooftop solar arrays.

Overall, renewables accounted for 42 percent of the California grid’s power on Saturday, not counting the large hydropower plants.

“The fact that the grid can handle 67 percent renewable power from multiple sources — it’s a great moment, and it shows the potential we have,” said Sachu Constantine, the director of policy at the Center for Sustainable Energy, a nonprofit clean energy advisory firm in Berkeley.


Sustaining such high levels, however, will be challenging, he said.

California law requires utilities to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, rising to 50 percent by 2030. Last year, California's three large electric utilities collectively got 32.3 percent of their electricity from renewables. (Neither the state requirement nor the 2016 figure includes large hydropower facilities.)

Saturday’s numbers are the latest benchmark in what is expected to be a record-setting year for renewable energy production in California, because of the growing number of solar power plants in the state, the seasonal increase in sunshine and the flush hydroelectricity reserves produced by last winter’s rain.

For a span of three hours on March 11, solar power met roughly half of all electricity demand across much of the state, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s statistics division. The proportion of power produced from renewables that day peaked at 56.7 percent — a record at the time.


The torrents of rain that fell in the state have filled hydroelectric dams to levels not seen in decades. Up to 21 percent of the state’s total electricity output could come from hydroelectricity this year, according estimates from the California Energy Commission.

And on Tuesday, the state set a new record for wind power generation, producing 4,985 megawatts. A megawatt is a snapshot figure roughly equal to the amount of energy used by 760 homes at any given moment.

“It’s going to be a dynamic year for records,” said Steven Greenlee, a spokesman for the ISO. “The solar records in particular are falling like dominoes.”

It is possible, Greenlee said, that the state could cross the 70 percent threshold for renewable production this summer.

The steady stream of record-breaking days is a positive sign that the grid is adapting well to the influx of renewable energy, according to Greenlee. “That shows how our grid is shifting from the old paradigm, the old grid we used to have,” he said.

Given current weather forecasts, it is not out of the question that the state could push past the new record by this weekend, Greenlee said.

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The US wind industry now employs more than 100,000 people


April 23, 2017 at 12:04 am

By Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

The fastest-growing occupation in the United States – by a long shot, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – might surprise you: wind turbine technician.

The number of workers maintaining wind turbines, a job with a median pay of about $51,000 a year, is set to more than double between 2014 and 2024, the agency estimates. That’s a more rapid growth rate than that of physical therapists, financial advisers, home health aides and genetic counselors.

There’s a notable caveat, of course. Because “wind tech” remains a small occupation, its rapid projected growth probably will amount to only about 5,000 additional jobs in the coming years. Even so, the proliferation of wind turbine technicians hints at a larger reality: The U.S. wind industry, like renewable energy in general, is continuing to flourish.

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Germany Strikes Offshore Wind Deals, Subsidy Not Included



The wind farm BARD Offshore 1, 62 miles northwest of the German island of Borkum in the North Sea, in 2013.


Fabian Bimmer/Reuters

LONDON — European governments have spent large sums of money in recent years subsidizing giant offshore wind projects in hopes of creating a clean source of energy that could eventually pay for itself. Now that moment may be here — and a lot sooner than expected.

On Thursday, the Danish company Dong Energy, the largest offshore wind developer, won the right to build two large wind projects in the German North Sea with no government subsidies — a highly symbolic first for the industry.

The company will receive the revenues from the electricity generated by the wind farms. German consumers will pay the substantial costs of connecting the wind farms at sea to the power grid.

“Offshore wind is categorically proving its competitiveness,” Jochen Homann, president of the Bundesnetzagentur, the Geman agency that held the auction, said in a statement. “This is good news for all electricity consumers who contribute to funding renewable energy.”

Offshore wind dates back only a quarter-century; developers in Denmark were the first who took to the sea to gain access to wide open spaces and stronger breezes.

The industry has always seemed promising because its installations could generate large amounts of electricity without the greenhouse gas emissions produced by coal- or natural-gas-fired plants. In this way, offshore wind projects helped meet governments’ goals for tackling climate change. Costs, though, remained stubbornly high until the past two years.

Governments have recently become much more sophisticated at designing auctions to reduce the costs of building offshore wind projects, and that change is forcing developers like Dong to adjust.

Last year, highly competitive auctions in Denmark and the Netherlands resulted in low bids from developers such as the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell. The German auction for the two projects to be handled by Dong, called OWP West and Borkum Riffgrund West 2, continued the pattern.

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Surge of hydropower could force cutbacks of solar, wind

By Dominic Fracassa

March 31, 2017 Updated: April 2, 2017 7:55pm

An abundance of rain and snowfall this winter has teed up what’s expected to be a bountiful year for hydroelectricity production in California, as reservoirs recover from five years of drought.

But the projected rise in hydropower could force the state to sharply cut back on the amount of power produced from other sources, particularly renewable energy, according to the California Independent System Operator, the organization that manages most of the state’s vast energy system.

The system operator forecasts on some days it will have to block between 6,000 and 8,000 megawatts of electricity from the grid as a result of the profusion of hydropower. That’s the equivalent output of six to eight nuclear reactors.

In order to keep pace with the supply and demand of the state’s moment-to-moment energy needs, as one power sources rises, others have to be dialed down, in a process known as curtailment.

Steven Greenlee, a spokesman for the system operator, said that California’s policies requiring increasing amounts of energy to be produced from renewable sources have boosted the amount of solar power.

“If the amount of excess supply we have on the grid is during the mid-morning and mid-afternoons, it’s likely that solar will be high on the list to curtail,” Greenlee said, adding that wind power production is likely to be curbed as well. Natural gas plants could also be affected.

Hydroelectric output could also be curtailed, Greenlee said, but only when dams are beneath their “spill levels,” the safety threshold that determines when water must be released. The system operator must accept power from hydroelectric sources that are above their spill levels. That could happen as snowmelt pours into reservoirs.

“Now we’re seeing a record amount of hydro plus a record amount of solar,” Greenlee said. “And so that’s shaping up to be a potential for more excess on the grid than what we’ve ever encountered before.”

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Don’t let wind energy stall

MARCH 20, 2017 1:00 PM


A rainbow appears next to an array of wind turbines in Palm Springs. Wind energy advocates are calling on older projects to be updated with more efficient turbines. Sandy Huffaker Associated Press file


Special to The Bee

David Hochschild is a member of the California Energy Commission and can be contacted at Nancy Rader is executive director of the California Wind Energy Association and can be contacted at


As wind energy achieves a historic milestone – surpassing the total capacity of hydropower dams to become the nation’s largest renewable energy resource – many of California’s pioneer wind projects are in danger of shutting down.

Instead, California should promote the revival of these projects with state-of-the-art technology.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s first administration in the 1970s spawned the initial wave of utility-scale renewable energy, which launched the wind power industry globally. It is a testament to the early technology that most of the wind turbines installed in the 1980s were still in operation some 25 years later, withstanding conditions so tough that new turbine designs are often tested alongside.

Yet these new turbines convert wind into electricity twice as efficiently as the early turbines. Modern wind turbines are also 30 times larger in size and capacity, meaning that a single new one can replace approximately 30 older ones. At the Vasco project in Altamont Pass, 432 older turbines were replaced with just 34 new ones, tripling energy generation and dramatically reducing visual impact.

In addition, considerable technological enhancements since the early 1980s have made wind energy one of the most cost-competitive sources of electricity generation today. Wind energy now supplies more than 8 percent of the state’s power supply.

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How we can turn railroads into a climate solution

By Patrick Mazza on Mar 13, 2017

Patrick Mazza is an independent journalist-researcher-activist focused on climate, clean energy, and global sustainability, and coauthor of the new book Solutionary Rail. Mazza has more than one way of “working on the railroad.” He also was one of the Delta 5 oil train blockaders.

Railroads have become a nexus of controversy in recent years due to their role in transporting climate-twisting fossil fuels. But they could become a locomotive driving the growth of clean energy. That is the aim of a new proposal to electrify railroads, run them on renewable energy, and use rail corridors as electricity superhighways to carry power from remote solar and wind installations to population centers.

The proposal, called Solutionary Rail, has been developed by a team of rail experts, economists, and public interest advocates assembled by the Washington state–based Backbone Campaign. Bill McKibben writes in the foreword to the recently released Solutionary Rail book that he has “been following the debate over energy, transportation, and climate change since the late 1980s … So it’s hard to come up with an idea I haven’t come across before. Rail electrification, as proposed in this remarkable book, is that rarest of things: a genuinely new idea, and one that makes immediate gut sense.”

An activist movement, sometimes known as the “thin green line,” has grown up in the Northwest in recent years to resist coal and oil shipments through the region, between the rich fossil resources east of the Rockies and the growing markets of Asia. The Backbone Campaign, a group that develops innovative strategies and tactics to build grassroots democratic movements, has been enmeshed in this movement.

The movement has been successful in stopping many fossil fuel export facilities from being built along the Pacific Coast. But it’s largely been a defensive campaign rather than a proactive one. In 2013, a rail labor leader challenged Backbone Executive Director Bill Moyer to green a labor concept for modernizing rail lines in the northern states, a “yes” to accompany the “no.” Moyer took up the challenge, and the result is Solutionary Rail.

Rail electrification is common in other parts of the world. Around the globe, electricity serves nearly a quarter of railroad track miles and supplies over one-third of the energy that powers trains. But in the U.S., under 1 percent of tracks are electrified. That’s due to high upfront capitalization costs, an obstacle that publicly owned railroads in other nations do not face. Railroads in other countries also do not have to pay property taxes on electrification infrastructure, which U.S. railroads do.

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Wind takes renewable power crown from hydro in U.S.

Iowa leads all states with 36.3 percent of its electricity coming from wind.


Matt Young, The Associated Press In this May 6, 2013, file photo, a wind turbine farm stands near Glenrock, Wyo.

ALDO SVALDI | | The Denver Post

March 6, 2017 at 5:23 pm


Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostTurbines at the NEXTera Energy wind farm north of Limon are part of a surge in wind generating capacity in recent years that has pushed the renewable energy source ahead of hydropower in the United States.  (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

A $13.8 billion investment in new turbines pushed the country’s wind power generating capacity ahead of hydropower last year, according to a report released Monday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Wind generation supplied 5.5 percent of the country’s electricity last year, up from 4.7 percent in 2015, according to the EIA. In five states — Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota — wind sources account for more than 20 percent of electricity generation.

“For these states, and across America, wind is welcome because it means jobs, investment, and a better tomorrow for rural communities,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association in a statement.

While Colorado isn’t in the 20-percent club it is close, with wind generating 17.3 percent of power last year. New wind farm installations, however, stalled last year. A 20 percent boost in the state’s wind-generating capacity is expected in late 2018 with the completion of Xcel Energy’s Rush Creek Wind Farm.

Iowa leads all states with 36.3 percent of its electricity coming from wind, followed by South Dakota at 30.3 percent and Kansas at 29.6 percent.

In a historic first, the Southeast Power Pool, which stretches from northern Texas to North Dakota, pulled 52.1 percent of its electricity supply from wind sources in the early hours of Feb. 12, the EIA noted.

About half of the country’s hydroelectric generation is concentrated in the Pacific Northwest and California. Wind generation capacity is widespread, although 99 percent of turbines are located in rural areas. The heaviest concentration of wind-generating capacity is in the Plains states, with minimal capacity in the Gulf states, aside from Texas, and along the Atlantic seaboard, except for Maine and Vermont.

The EIA reports the addition of 8,727 megawatts of new wind capacity last year and more than 52,000 turbines now in operation. Although wind-generating capacity exceeds that of hydro, when water is available hydropower plants make more efficient use of their capacity.

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Wind Power Surpasses Hydroelectric in a Crucial Measure



A wind turbine farm in Colorado City, Tex.


Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The wind industry crossed an important threshold in the United States last year, exceeding the generating capacity of hydroelectric power for the first time, according to the main industry trade group, the American Wind Energy Association.

The nation’s fleet of dams has long stood as the top renewable energy source, but there has been little market interest in building more big hydroelectric generating stations. In the meantime, wind has rapidly expanded — more than tripling in capacity since 2008 — with many more installations on the way.

An Important Asterisk

The comparison here is limited, measuring the maximum amount of power that generating stations are rated to produce — a threshold few, if any, ever meet. According to the Energy Information Administration, conventional hydroelectric generating capacity stood at 78,956 megawatts in 2015, while wind, the industry group says, reached 82,183 megawatts last year, about enough to run 24 million average American homes. (The hydroelectric figure does not include pumped storage, in which water pumped to an elevated reservoir can be released through a turbine to generate electricity when needed.)

But hydroelectric power could still lead in terms of actual production: According to the Energy Information Administration’s most recent annual electric power report, hydroelectric edged out wind in terms of power sent to the grid by roughly 30 percent in 2015, though both forms trailed fossil fuels and nuclear power by wide margins.

The Question of Efficiency

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Offshore Wind Moves Into Energy’s Mainstream




Dong Energy, a Danish company, is installing 32 turbines that stretch 600 feet high off the coast of Britain.


Andy Teebay

LIVERPOOL, England — When engineers faced resistance from residents in Denmark over plans to build wind turbines on the Nordic country’s flat farmland, they found a better locale: the sea. The offshore wind farm, the world’s first, had just 11 turbines and could power about 3,000 homes.

That project now looks like a minnow compared with the whales that sprawl for miles across the seas of Northern Europe.

Off this venerable British port city, a Danish company, Dong Energy, is installing 32 turbines that stretch 600 feet high. Each turbine produces more power than that first facility.

It is precisely the size, both of the projects and the profits they can bring, that has grabbed the attention of financial institutions, money managers and private equity funds, like the investment bank Goldman Sachs, as well as wealthy individuals like the owner of the Danish toymaker Lego. As the technology has improved and demand for renewable energy has risen, costs have fallen.

And offshore wind, once a fringe investment, with limited scope and reliant on government subsidies, is moving into the mainstream. Europe, too, looks all the more attractive, as the United States under President Trump rethinks its stance on renewables.

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Western voters prioritize conservation and keeping public lands public, poll finds

Only Utah voters support divesting federal public lands


Matthew Brown, AP file In this Aug. 26, 2016, file photo, a herd of bison appears in Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Valley in Montana. For conservatives who have long believed federal managers of America’s vast public lands put more value on endangered owls than people and jobs, Donald Trump’s election raises hopes for significant increases in oil and gas drilling, mining, grazing, timber harvesting and perhaps even a shift of control to state or local governments. But voters in six of seven Western states value habitat and recreation over increased extraction of resources from public lands.

By BRUCE FINLEY | | The Denver Post

PUBLISHED: January 31, 2017 at 7:54 pm | UPDATED: February 1, 2017 at 3:08 pm

Western voters prioritize protecting water, air and wildlife habitat and opportunities for recreation over increased drilling and mining on public lands, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The voters surveyed over the past two months in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming also favored improving facilities in national parks and other outdoor destinations, the annual “State of the Rockies — Conservation in the West” poll found. And voters favored investment in production of wind and solar energy using public land, rather than extracting more fossil fuels.

Majorities in every state except Utah opposed efforts to transfer control of federal public lands to states.

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Eos Finds a Partner in Siemens to Scale an Unusual Battery


Photo Credit: Eos

The young battery startup also joined forces with wind specialist Northern Power Systems.

by Julian Spector

January 30, 2017


It's hard enough convincing investors to trust advanced battery technology when it's the increasingly recognizable lithium-ion variety. New Jersey-based battery startup Eos has a different challenge: pitching a technology nobody has ever heard of, because the company was the first to invent it.

Its major tool in overcoming that challenge is price. Eos team members say they are already selling their system at $160 per kilowatt-hour for high-volume orders. That's the DC system cost, so it doesn't include inverters or installation, but it trounces the advanced battery competition and has raised many an eyebrow in the industry.

A mind-blowing price captures customers' attention, but doesn't necessarily secure their trust. Eos has created a new energy storage technology the company calls zinc hybrid cathode. To build confidence in the product, the company has turned to established, recognizable companies to forge distribution partnerships. Eos announced two of these in the week leading up to the DistribuTech Conference in San Diego.

The 165-year-old technology powerhouse Siemens will work with Eos to deploy the batteries, adding power conversion for the DC systems as well as project development expertise. Those Eos installations will carry the seal of approval from Siemens to back up their operations, greatly enhancing the bankability of the projects. Eos has also forged a power conversion and project development partnership with Northern Power Systems, an energy company specializing in wind power that has more than four decades of experience under its belt.

These two companies are now members of the Aegis program, Eos' network of integrators. By leveraging the expertise and name recognition at the Aegis partners, Eos can punch above the weight of a small battery startup.

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Wind and Solar Are Our Cheapest Electricity Generation Sources. Now What Do We Do?


We’re already well into a new era. But many regulators and policymakers don’t act like it.

by Michael O'Boyle

January 26, 2017

Debates about the future of America’s electricity system have long centered on a binary choice between lowering costs or decreasing pollution. But that has changed. In many parts of the country, new renewables are simply the cheapest resource.

This economic evolution has taken on new importance for regulators and utilities under the Trump administration’s expected “all-of-the-above” approach to energy policy, and could ensure that clean energy continues to grow in a market-based policy setting.

Financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard’s 10th annual report on the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for different electricity-generating technologies shows renewables are the cheapest available sources of electricity (other than efficiency) even without subsidies -- a trend confirmed by similar analyses of wind and solar costs from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

With subsidies, in some places new wind is even cheaper than the short-term marginal costs of existing fossil-fueled plants, raising new questions about whether these plants should be retired early.

What does "levelized cost of energy" mean?

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Nation’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Will Be Built Off Long Island




The Long Island Power Authority’s board on Wednesday approved a wind farm for the waters between the eastern tip of Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard. “It is the largest project to date, but it will not be the last project,” said Thomas Falcone, center, chief executive of the utility.


Donna Alberico for The New York Times

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Seeking to meet growing electric demand in the Hamptons with renewable energy, the Long Island Power Authority approved the nation’s largest offshore wind farm on Wednesday, set for the waters between the eastern tip of Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard.

The farm, with as many as 15 turbines capable of powering 50,000 average homes over all, is the first of several planned by the developer, Deepwater Wind. It will be in a 256-square-mile parcel, with room for as many as 200 turbines, that the company is leasing from the federal government.

“It is the largest project to date, but it will not be the last project,” the power authority’s chief executive, Thomas Falcone, said before the vote as a crowd of supporters erupted in whoops and applause.

Wind power has struggled to take off in the United States, but the Long Island project signals that the long-awaited promise of a new, lower-carbon source of electricity is poised to become part of the national energy mix.

It has been given new life by New York’s push to meet Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s goal of drawing 50 percent of the state’s power from renewable sources by 2030. That goal includes 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind, enough to power 1.25 million homes. It is the largest commitment to offshore wind in the country and is part of the state’s way of showing the nascent industry it is serious about developing the resource.

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