Study: U.S. can reach 20 percent wind power

Apparently, we’ve got air to spare.

The Department of Energy released a report today that says by 2030 the U.S. could meet 20 percent of its power from wind, increasing from the current 16.8 gigawatts to 304 gigawatts by 2030.
But it won’t be easy. Among the things that need to occur:
* Annual installations need to increase more than threefold. The number of annual turbine installations must increase from about 2,000 in 2006 to almost 7,000 in 2017.
* 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. This could mean giving state and federal officials greater power to take land for power lines. (and don’t forget this won’t be cheap)
To answer the first question critics of wind power may have: yes, this takes into account the variability wind, and includes the construction of gas peaker plants to handle times of low wind. This would cost about 0.5 cents per kWh, the study says.
It also assumes better use of technology to anticipate weather issues and an integrated national grid that can balance the shifting power needs better than it currently does. They seem to understand we don’t want to see more issues like the one we faced in Texas earlier this year.
And to answer the second wind-critic question: it does not assume the existing production tax credit for wind power continues beyond 2008.
Wind power continues to grow quickly in the U.S., with 35 percent of all new capacity installed last year coming from wind power (just about everything else was natural gas). In the next two years the U.S. will probably pass Germany as the largest wind power producer.
Andy Karsner, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said in a press conference Monday the surge in wind project construction in the U.S. is proof that critics who say wind power “is marginal and always will be” are wrong. He also says critics are wrong when they say wind is too unreliable. “… no resource is more measured or monitored than wind,” he said, noting developers usually study wind patterns for several years at a site before building. “It’s one of the least volatile, varying by 10 to 15 percent over its lifetime.”
BTW, Houston will play host to the American Wind Energy Association’s “Windpower 2008” conference in June. The state already leads the nation in wind power generation, a position it’s not likely to give up anytime soon.