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Wind Energy Could Produce 20 Percent of U.S. Electricity By 2030

May 12, 2008

The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) today released a first-of-its kind report that examines the technical feasibility of harnessing wind power to provide up to 20 percent of the nation’s total electricity needs by 2030. Entitled “20 Percent Wind Energy by 2030,” the report identifies requirements to achieve this goal, including reducing the cost of wind technologies, citing new transmission infrastructure, and enhancing domestic manufacturing capability. Most notably, the report identifies opportunities for 7.6 cumulative gigatons of CO2 to be avoided by 2030, saving 825 million metric tons in 2030 and every year thereafter if wind energy achieves 20 percent of the nation’s electricity mix.

Prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy and a broad cross section of stakeholders across industry, government, and three of DOE’s national laboratories (the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA; and Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, NM), the report presents an in-depth analysis of the potential for wind in the United States and outlines a potential scenario to boost wind electric generation from its current production of 16.8 gigawatts (GW) to 304 GW by 2030. For its technical report, DOE also drew on the expertise of the American Wind Energy Association and Black and Veatch engineering consultants, and the report reflects input from more than 50 energy organizations and corporations.

The analysis concludes that reaching 20 percent wind energy will require enhanced transmission infrastructure, streamlined siting and permitting regimes, improved reliability and operability of wind systems, and increased U.S. wind manufacturing capacity. Highlights of the report include:

  1. Annual installations need to increase more than threefold. Achieving 20 percent wind will require the number of annual turbine installations to increase from approximately 2000 in 2006 to almost 7000 in 2017.
  2. Costs of integrating intermittent wind power into the grid are modest, and 20 percent wind can be reliably integrated into the grid for less than 0.5 cents per kWh.
  3. No material constraints currently exist. Although demand for copper, fiberglass, and other raw materials will increase, achieving 20 percent wind is not limited by the availability of raw materials.
  4. Transmission challenges need to be addressed. Issues related to siting and cost allocation of new transmission lines to access the Nation’s best wind resources will need to be resolved in order to achieve 20 percent wind.

Last year, U.S. cumulative wind energy capacity reached 16,818 megawatts (MW), with more than 5,000 MW of wind installed in 2007. Wind contributed to more than 30 percent of the new U.S. generation capacity in 2007, making it the second largest source of new power generation in the nation (surpassed only by natural gas). The U.S. wind energy industry invested approximately $9 billion in new generating capacity in 2007 and has experienced a 30 percent annual growth rate in the last 5 years.