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Archive for Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dramatic wind energy growth foreseen

A rainbow is visible behind an array of wind turbines in this Jan. 28 file photo from Palm Springs, Calif. By the year 2030, Americans may get as much as 20 percent of their electricity from wind power, the Energy Department says.

A rainbow is visible behind an array of wind turbines in this Jan. 28 file photo from Palm Springs, Calif. By the year 2030, Americans may get as much as 20 percent of their electricity from wind power, the Energy Department says.

May 13, 2008

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— Two decades from now Americans could get as much electricity from windmills as from nuclear power plants, according to a government report that lays out a possible plan for wind energy growth.

The report, a collaboration between the Energy Department research labs and industry, concludes wind energy could generate 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030, about the same share now produced by nuclear reactors.

Such growth would pose a number of major challenges, but is achievable without the need of major new technological breakthroughs, said the report released Monday.

"The report indicates that we can do this nationally for less than half a cent per kilowatt hour if we have the vision," said Andrew Karsner, the Energy Department's assistant secretary for efficiency and renewable energy.

If achieved, it would be an astounding leap.

Wind energy today accounts for only about 1 percent of the nation's electricity, although the industry has been on a growth binge with a 45 percent jump in production last year.

To reach the 20 percent production level, wind turbines would have to produce 300,000 megawatts of power, compared to about 16,000 megawatts generated today. Such growth would envision more than 75,000 new wind turbines, many of them larger than those operating today. About 54,000 megawatts would be produced by turbines in offshore waters.

And it would require a major expansion of the electricity grid system to move power from high-wind areas to other parts of the country, the report said.

"The United States possesses abundant wind resources," said the report spearheaded by DOE's National Renewable Technology Laboratory in Golden, Colo., and a 20 percent share of electricity production "while ambitious, could be feasible."

But the report cautioned that its findings were not meant to predict that such growth would, in fact, be achieved, but only that it is technically possible. And it acknowledged "there are significant costs, challenges and impacts" associated with such rapid growth.

It would require improved turbine technology, "significant changes" and expansion of power line systems and a major expansion of markets for wind energy to accommodate an annual growth rate of 16,000 megawatts of electricity a year beginning in 2018, more than five times today's annual growth.

Randall Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Association, said the report confirms that wind energy "is no longer a niche" in the power industry.

Dan Arvizu, director of the department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said that the 18-month study provides a "vision" of the kind of wind energy growth technically possible.

"First of all, it's doable, second of all it's desirable," said Arvizu at a news conference.

"It's time for America to change the way we think about wind power," said Bob Lukefahr of BP Alternative Energy North America. The oil company is a leading wind developer, said Lukefahr.

If wind energy's share of power production grows to 20 percent, natural gas consumption is expected to decline by 11 percent and coal consumption by 18 percent in 2030, said the report. As a result carbon dioxide emissions linked to global warming would be reduced by 825 million metric tons a year.

"This is the equivalent of taking 140 million cars off the road," Swisher said.

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 3 months ago

I think this is a very conservative estimate. I predict at least 1/3 of our electricity will be from wind, and possibly an equal amount from solar and other renewable sources by 2030, and increasing efficiency and conservation measures will reduce total demand by 10-20%.

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MountainLion413 5 years, 11 months ago

Seeing is believing.In July, my wife and I took our first road-trip vacation to the Pacific Northwest since 1998. We came face to face with the Inconvenient Truth, as we saw that, even on clear days, visiblity is way down from what it was ten years ago.Case in point - As we approached the Columbia River Gorge on I-84 in Oregon, on a bright clear day without a cloud in the sky, we were NOT able to see the outline of Mount Hood while 2-1/2 hours away from Hood River, as we used to; This time, we were less than ONE hour out of Hood River before we started to see Mount Hood's familiar beautiful profile.As if in partial answer to this, we also saw, in every state we drove through, large numbers of these giant wind turbines.It takes a semi to haul just one or two individual wings of each turbine.At first, I did not buy the argument that these things could provide as much electricity as Nuclear Plants. I never was a fan of the latter, but I didn't think wind power was adequate to challenge it.Now, having seen row after row of Wind Turbines for several miles, not just in Kansas, but in each state from here to the Pacific, I'm ready to eat Vegan CrowFurkey. I'll have mine served up well done, smothered in A-1 sauce.MountainLion413

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notajayhawk 5 years, 11 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says: "I think this is a very conservative estimate. I predict..."Care to let the boys and girls at home in on your track record, prediction-wise, boohoozo?With the population increase that the next 20 years will bring, you think energy consumption will actually drop 10-20%? Back away from the pipe, boohoozo.Had we not stopped building nuclear plants, our energy needs would have been met quite nicely all along. Build more of them, and build them now.

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