U.S. DoE: Wind Could Provide 20 Percent of U.S. Electricity By 2030

According to a U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) report issued in May, wind power is capable of becoming a major contributor to America’s electricity supply over the next three decades. The report, entitled, 20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply , contrasts two sce

According to a U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) report issued in May, wind power is capable of becoming a major contributor to America’s electricity supply over the next three decades. The report, entitled, 20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply, contrasts two scenarios: one that reaches 20 percent wind energy by 2030 and another in which no new U.S. wind power capacity is developed during that period. Under the former scenario, installations of new wind power capacity would increase to more than 16,000 MW per year by 2018 and continue at that rate through 2030. By comparison, about 5,500 MW of new wind power capacity is expected to be installed in the U.S. in 2008.

“The report shows that wind power can provide 20 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030 and be a critical part of the solution to global warming,” says Randall Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Assn. (AWEA, Washington, D.C.). “This level of wind power is the equivalent of taking 140 million cars off the road.” The document also identifies the transmission, siting, manufacturing and technology barriers to achieving this goal, demonstrates how each can be overcome, and identifies a number of benefits that will result. Among them are reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation (25 percent), natural gas use (11 percent) and water consumption associated with electricity generation (4 trillion gal). Positives include increased annual revenues to local communities of more than $1.5 billion by 2030 as well as support of roughly 500,000 jobs in the U.S., with an average of more than 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry.

“The report correctly highlights that greater penetration of renewable sources of energy — such as wind — into our electric grid will have to be paired with not only advanced integration technologies but also new transmission,” says Kevin Kolevar, DoE’s assistant secretary for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. “In many cases, the most robust sources of renewable resources are located in remote areas, and if we want to be able to deliver these new, clean and abundant sources of energy to population centers, we will need additional transmission.”

Included in the report are an examination of America’s technological and manufacturing capabilities, future costs of energy sources, U.S. wind energy resources, and the environmental and economic impacts of wind development.

“DoE’s wind report is a thorough look at America’s wind resource, its industrial capabilities, and future energy prices, and confirms the viability and commercial maturity of wind as a major contributor to America’s energy needs, now and in the future,” says DoE assistant secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner. “To dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance our energy security, clean power generation at the gigawatt-scale will be necessary and will require us to take a comprehensive approach to scaling renewable wind power, streamlining siting and permitting processes, and expanding the domestic wind manufacturing base.”

The report comes at an important time in wind energy development. In 2007, wind was one of the fastest growing sources of electricity in the U.S., second only to natural gas for the third consecutive year. According to an AWEA report released in May, the U.S. wind energy industry continued new installations at an extremely fast pace in the first quarter of 2008 (see p. 17). AWEA credits a key federal incentive, the production tax credit (PTC), consistently renewed since 2005, with enabling U.S.-based supply chain providers to establish a much stronger foundation of domestic manufacturing for turbine components, which range from towers and blades to gearboxes, bearings and electrical and electronic components. However, the fate of the PTC and with it, the industry’s near-term future, now hangs again in the balance. AWEA’s executive director, Randall Swisher, says that if Congress does not act to extend the PTC before it expires in December of this year, the momentum could be derailed at a bad time for the economy, placing 76,000 jobs and over $11.5 billion in investment at risk: “While 2008 is shaping up to be another great year,” he notes, “we could see a very different story in 2009 as uncertainty looms over investment in wind power projects and manufacturing due to continuing delay in extending the production tax credit.” When the PTC has lapsed previously (in 1999, 2001 and 2003), installations have dropped by as much as 93 percent in the following year.

The full U.S. Department of Energy report is available online atwww.20percentwind.org.