Wind power may soon be coming to a field near you.
The Department of Energy (DOE) published a major report looking at the viability of scaling up wind power in the United States. Wind power now makes up 4.5 percent of electricity generation in the United States, with 65 gigawatts located across 39 states.
But DOE concluded that ramping up wind to meet 20 percent of the nation’s electricity generation by 2030 and 35 percent by 2050 is not only eminently doable, but would also provide a variety of economic benefits. Related: No Country For King Coal – The Changing U.S. Energy Mix
Doubters of wind power – and renewables in general – cite a litany of reasons for why renewables cannot meet the needs of a modern 21st century industrial economy. Opponents argue that wind is too expensive and will raise electricity rates, or that the wind does not blow all the time, or that it cannot power heavy manufacturing.
The Energy Department conducted an economic study that looked at what would happen if wind power captured a rising share of the electric power market. And it concluded that wind passes all the necessary tests. First, it may only contribute to a 1 percent increase in electricity rates over the next 15 years, but those costs could then flip into savings, dropping by 2 percent through 2050. Related: Who Benefits Most From Cheap Oil?
Moreover, not only would scaling up wind have a negligible impact on electricity prices, but by reducing demand for natural gas to burn electricity, wind would lower natural gas prices, thereby creating big savings for uses of natural gas other than for electricity. Wind would save $280 billion through lower natural gas prices.
Another complaint about wind is that it can only be constructed in windy areas – in other words, the Great Plains. A band running from Texas to North Dakota is indeed the windiest section of the country, but the problem with that is that very few people live in wind-swept areas of South Dakota, Wyoming, or the panhandle of Texas, for example. But DOE finds that innovation in wind equipment – such as larger towers and blades that reduce the cost of generation – allow wind to spread well beyond these traditional windy areas. For example, increasing heights to 140 meters can allow wind to become viable across three times the amount of land space compared to 2008. Or, put more simply, wind can now be profitably built in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and several more states. Related: Texas Town First Of Many To Switch To 100% Renewable Power
However, not all is rosy. Wind still faces stiff competition from natural gas as well as flat electricity demand. That is hurting investment and causing hesitation in the industry. Major improvements in technology, supply chain management, reliability, as well as a large build out in electric transmission capacity will be needed in order for wind to succeed over the long-term, conditions which are not guaranteed.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:
- The Most Challenging Oil And Gas Projects In The World
- Forget Rig Counts And OPEC, Media Bias Is Driving Oil Down
- Natural Gas Prices To Crash Unless Rig Count Falls Fast