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Colorado’s Wind Energy Boom

Colorado’s Wind Energy Boom

Wind energy is growing across the United States, with nearly a quarter of the states producing 10 percent or more of their electricity from wind farms. Triple the amount produced just a few years ago.

Over the past decade, Colorado has doubled the number of wind turbines in the state to nearly 1,900. According to a report released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind energy produced 14 percent of Colorado’s electricity in 2015 with more turbines planned for the near future.

Decreasing Emissions, One Blade at a Time

Wind power is a cleaner source of energy than fossil fuels, and because Colorado is one of the country’s leaders in wind energy production, it’s helping the state comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The plan was established to focus and take action on climate change by reducing carbon pollution. Wind power has grown both nationally and internationally in recent years and has drastically reduced carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, “Wind energy is leading the United States to a low-carbon future. Not only is wind energy reliable and affordable,” said Emily Williams, Senior Policy Analyst, “but it’s providing sustained emissions reductions in the sector that contributes the most to climate change, the power sector.” Each wind turbine avoids approximately 4,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is equal to taking 900 cars off the road. Multiply that by 1,900 wind turbines in Colorado alone and it’s like removing 1.75 million cars from our roads.

Technology Advancements Increase Production

Over the last 10 years, innovative technology breakthroughs have increased reliability, efficiency and capacity of wind turbines making them more affordable than ever.

Improved Weather Forecasting: Better forecasting has been a major factor in the increase of wind energy production. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologists examine the forecast for energy potential from wind and notify utility companies so that they can adjust the turbines to pull the maximum wind power.

Larger Turbine Blades: To continue the shift to cleaner energy, more wind has to be captured. One solution has been to increase the length of turbine blades by a few additional feet. This small increase could generate more than double the electricity. Taller towers and longer blades could make wind the leading producer of energy worldwide.

Better Gearbox Design: Improvements in gearbox design have reduced their maintenance costs and increased their lifespan, reliability and load sharing between gears.

Transmission Improvements: Energy is collected from the wind farms, typically in rural areas, and transported through large transmission lines to urban areas where the majority of electricity is used. The electricity then travels through smaller distribution lines delivering electricity directly into buildings. New technologies, such as Dynamic Line Rating (DLR) which increases ampacity, High-Temperature Low-Sag Conductors (HTLS) which doubles capacity load and Flexible AC Transmission Systems (FACTS) which enhances controllability and increases power transfer, have allowed for increased capacity within the transmission grid.

Job Growth for Colorado and Beyond

The wind energy sector currently employs nearly 90,000 Americans, with 300,000 more jobs expected by 2030. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wind Turbine Service Technician ranks as the fastest-growing occupation over the next decade. Wind energy is continuing to expand in Colorado, which will not only provide hundreds of new jobs to Coloradans but will also save energy customers money.

RK Steel has been assisting in the design, engineering and fabrication for the production and maintenance needs of one of the world’s leading wind turbine companies in Colorado. Some of our major projects in the wind energy sector have included custom-built shipping stands to steady blades during transportation on trucks and railroads, special lifting equipment tools and custom metal parts, such as those used to assemble the hubs of wind turbines. For more information about custom-built products that RK Steel can build for you, contact Mike Hoover at mhoover@rkmi.com.

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