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Wind energy yields benefits to environment

Published: Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

Wind energy is on the rise in Illinois and is providing huge environmental benefits for the state. Illinois’ wind energy is already avoiding more than 4.6 million metric tons of climate-altering carbon pollution – the equivalent of taking 971,000 cars off the road, while saving two billion gallons of water a year – enough to meet the needs of 63,000 people. 

Because of its current and future benefits, wind power is a key component of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the carbon pollution, which is fueling global warming, by 17 percent by 2020.

The plan calls for an expansion of renewable energy, investment in energy efficiency, and the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

The report, Wind Energy for a Cleaner America, also shows that today’s wind energy in Illinois avoids 4,300 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxides and 5,400 tons of sulfur dioxide, which cause acid rain and soot.

Wind energy is now providing 7.7 million megawatt-hours of electricity in Illinois. If state and federal officials commit to continued progress, Illinois could reduce the carbon pollution equivalent of more than 780,000 passenger vehicles, and save enough water to meet the annual water needs of nearly 58,000 people. 

Illinois’s recent progress on wind is the direct result of federal production tax credit for wind power, which is set to expire at the end of 2013.

Clean energy policy is also threatened at the statehouse. Illinois’ Renewable Portfolio Standard needs technical changes to ensure growth in wind and other clean energy sources, but legislators have not acted on a bill pending in the state Senate that would achieve that goal.

The Illinois General Assembly needs to fix our renewable portfolio standards, and Sen. Mark Kirk needs to do whatever it takes to extend federal wind incentives before the end of the year.

Note to readers: Lisa Nikodem is the campaign director for Environment Illinois.

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