Scaling Wind, directed by Michelle Nunez, and produced by GreenTech Films, is an informative 30-minute documentary showcasing the benefits and challenges of reaching 20% wind energy by 2030 in the US.
The film shows how the goal started, with a 2006 State of the Union address by George W. Bush. His suggestion of getting 20% wind energy by 2030 was one solution to getting off fossil fuels. Afterwards, a 2008 US Department of Energy report laid out a road map for politicians and policymakers to reach this target, while recognizing potential concerns.
As the film moves on, Scaling Wind blends nicely case studies of three states (Iowa, Utah, and Montana) and analysis from experts, showing the successes and concerns facing this ambitious goal.
Current Iowa Republican Governor Terry Brandstand is interviewed on how the state achieved 20% wind energy in 2011. This was largely thanks to implementing Renewable Energy Standards back in 1983 (when Brandstand was also governor), plus receiving bi-partisan support from both sides of the political spectrum.
Policymakers who are looking for a model at the state level could learn from the lesson of Iowa to gain broad support and move wind energy policy forward.
On the other side, Utah shows how wind activists face a daunting task against entrenched interests of fossil fuel groups.
Sarah Wright of the Utah Clean Air Partnership discusses making a strong business case for wind energy, while working across the table to achieve something vital. Ted Wilson, also of the Clean Air Partnership, suggests policymakers have been traditionally supportive of fossil-based fuels and the need to move away from that.
One thing the filmmakers did which I especially appreciated was touch on the challenges facing modernizing an electrical grid in making wind energy more accessible. In Montana, after they achieved RES legislation in 2005, former Governor Brian Schweitzer said transmission should be addressed. Transmission line costs account for 10% of your electricity bill, noted analyst Larry Flowers. Schweitzer said utilities, the transmission companies, and wind farms all have to be on the same page to make everything work, or some problems could occur (i.e. trying to move wind energy form the turbines in Montana through the transmission lines to California or Canada will not work if one falls out of place).
With rising carbon emissions, reaching over 400 ppm recently, increased consumer demand from emerging market economies, and dwindling water supplies, wind energy will play an important role in moving towards a truly clean economy faster.
If there is one problem with this documentary, it’s that it is very short. If it was longer, I wish they would have tackled how some external factors may affect the 20% by 2030 wind energy target, including global financial markets and further technological advances.
Despite the length of this film, which could easily be a local PBS documentary short, Scaling Wind is highly recommended viewing. For those who want a better understanding of past, present, and future US wind energy policy, watch this documentary when it comes by your area.
GreenTech films will have the next major screening during the American Wind Energy Association WindPower conference, which is May 6th at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.