Renewable Solar and Wind Projects Impact Regional Economic Success

The United States depends upon a range of sources for its domestic energy production. As the table below illustrates, primary energy sources include fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and coal), nuclear energy, and renewable sources of energy, and electricity is a secondary energy source that is generated (produced) from primary energy sources.[i] 

Coal, oil, and nuclear have been in a steady decline as a source of U.S. energy while natural gas and renewable energy sources have been on the increase. In fact, renewable energy production and consumption both reached record highs of about 12.32 and 12.16 quads, respectively, in 2021, driven mainly by record-high solar and wind energy production.[ii] Hydroelectric power production in 2021 was about 9% lower than in 2020 and about 19% lower than the 50-year average, and total biomass production and consumption in 2021 were both higher than in 2020, but lower than the record highs in 2018.[iii] Geothermal energy use in 2021 was about 1.5% higher than in 2020 but lower than the record high in 2014.

Solar power and wind power are the drivers for energy-based economic development. This is because solar power and wind power are considered renewable energy sources. Renewable energy is more popular in recent years because they are constantly being replenished in nature which makes consumption more affordable, eco-friendly and domestically produced. Renewable energy sources are being used as an alternative to fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, which cause harmful greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide (CO2). Additionally, fossil fuels take hundreds of millions of years to form which means these sources are constantly being consumed at an exceedingly higher rate than they are replenished. Solar energy, the most abundant energy resource, can deliver heat, cooling, natural lighting, electricity, and fuels for a host of applications even in cloudy weather. The cost of manufacturing solar panels has also plummeted dramatically in the last decade, making them one of the cheapest forms of electricity. Wind energy uses the kinetic energy of moving air by using large wind turbines located either on land or in seawater or fresh water. Although the use of wind energy is not novel, these technologies have evolved considerably in the last few years to maximize the electricity produced with taller turbines and larger rotor diameters.

Source: Electrek[1]

Many companies are seeing the benefit of adopting renewable energy sources in their economic development plans. In fact, the U.S. solar market has grown at an average rate of 42% each year for a decade. There are several large manufacturers in the U.S. that have taken big steps to reduce their carbon footprint. General Mills, for example, has set a goal to source 100% renewable electricity by 2030 as part of the RE100 global corporate initiative. This campaign aims to completely eliminate carbon emissions on a large scale in collaboration with major influential companies across the world.[2] General Mills is investing in renewable energy efforts such as large-scale wind farms which will produce renewable energy credits and anaerobic digestion which captures and uses methane from waste to generate electricity. One notable location where this is happening in the company’s plant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which has a 1.6-megawatt (MW) generator fueled by the anaerobic digester. This technology allows the company to convert the wastewater from its yogurt product into biogas fuel for the generator which is directed back into the yogurt processing facility. This generator has allowed General Mills to reduce its annual grid power and natural gas purchases by up to twenty percent.


Another large manufacturer that is leading the way toward large-scale renewable energy use is Ford Motor Company. Ford intends to achieve carbon neutrality globally by 2050 while setting interim targets to address climate change challenges more urgently.[3] To achieve its goal, the company is focusing on vehicle use, supply base, and its facilities, which account for about 95% of Ford’s CO2 emissions. To date, Ford has invested more than $11.5 billion in its electric vehicles including the zero-emission Mustang Mach-E and the fully electric F-150. The company is even participating in the California Air Resources Board Low Carbon Fuel Standard initiative to allow for 100 percent of home charging energy to be matched with renewable electricity for zero-carbon charging for California residents.[4] Ford uses the highest percentage of renewable energy within its industry (10% of its total electricity use) and recycles 90% of the waste it generates.[5] Currently, Ford is on track to power all its manufacturing plants with 100% locally sourced renewable energy by 2035.

Driven by consumer demand, renewable energy is becoming a larger player in the critical U.S. energy marketplace.







[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.