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Wind Power Finally Takes Hold In United States

Wind Power Finally Takes Hold In United States

At first glance, wind power might seem to be an easy road in the trip to renewable energy: Set up a turbine and begin cranking. But where turbines have been installed, nearby residents have complained about the sight and noise. Beyond that, the costs to set up wind farms are high.

As a result, wind power has developed sluggishly in the United States – until recently, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). There are now 14 offshore wind projects in advanced stages of development in the U.S. that are expected to be completed within the next five to seven years.

That’s according to an Aug. 27 report, Offshore Wind Market and Power Analysis, prepared for the DOE by Navigant Consulting of Chicago.

The report says most of the projects are off the Atlantic coast, which has enormous wind resources, but there’s also a floating project off the Oregon coast, one in Lake Erie off the Ohio coast, and one in the Gulf of Mexico off Texas. There’s even one in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

If all 14 projects are completed, the report says, they would generate nearly 4.9 gigawatts of electricity. That’s small compared to the 61-gigawatt capacity of existing on-shore wind farms, which on average generate nearly 4.5 percent of the country’s energy demand.

If the positive trends continue, offshore wind power could be contributing 54 gigawatts to the U.S. grid by 2030, according to another recent report.

That amount of wind could save the country $7.68 billion a year in energy costs, the study said. Further, a carbon tax – making polluting fossil fuels more expensive – would make wind power more economical, the report’s lead investigator, John Daniel of ABB, a power and automation company, told USA Today.

“We could eventually get there,” Daniel said. But he added that a hurdle for offshore wind farms is their steep construction costs, especially compared glut of inexpensive natural gas available.

Another snag is the expiration of the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for offshore wind power, which helps keep initial costs for construction low. That benefit was available only for projects that began before the end of 2013. And despite bipartisan support for wind energy in Washington, Congress hasn’t yet renewed the ITC.

If legislators renew the credit, wind power could go a long way toward realizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed 30 percent cut in carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030. The plan is expected to go into effect in 2015, leading to shutdowns of many generators powered by fossil fuels, opening the door to alternative power plants.

By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Thinker on September 09 2014 said:
    I enjoyed reading this article. However, it does not point out obvious cons to wind power. A source of energy that has, since its inception, been wholly sustained through government (taxpayer) subsidies is not one which is ready for "primetime." We keep throwing money at these "carbon-free" (under the unproven myth that man-made carbon emissions are a danger to society) alternatives with no guarantee of a self-sustaining industry. It cannot be argued that if I know there is coal, oil, and natural gas in the ground, that I am guaranteed energy. Wind being dependent on weather systems and solar being depending on abundant sunshine, is much less of a guarantee. I am not against developing these alternatives. In fact, I think we must, but not at the cost of our greatest God-given resources. Shutting down conventional power plants, which are proven energy producers, will only guarantee higher end-user costs, and leave us scrambling when the alternatives fail.
  • Ed on September 09 2014 said:
    So which is it? Will wind save us $7.68 billion a year, or are the construction costs so expensive (compared to proven gas technology) that it actually ends up being a far more expensive power option overall?

    We all know the answer. Without the production tax credit (which essentially guarantees a hefty profit to those that construct a wind facility, at the expense of taxpayers and future ratepayers), there would be no wind industry. It can't pay its own way.

    As far as EPA's goal of a 30 percent CO2 reduction, it has yet to be shown that reducing CO2 emissions will have any benefit whatsoever.
  • Thinker on September 11 2014 said:
    Ed, great points. Remember ethanol and the craze in the mid 2000s to use it, until the bureaucrats (who already knew of its downsides) "realized" that it would bury our food supply, corrode pipes and engines at an astronomical rate, and not be beneficial in any way. Yet, here we are, subsidizing the Solyndra's and Fisker's of the world, guaranteeing our place of subserviance on the world stage. Fisker spent $600k for each car it sold. How sad.

    This is why America will never truly be energy independent. Bribable politicians bent on following unproven rabbit holes will ensure it.
  • Cliff Claven on September 17 2014 said:
    This was obviously a paid add and not an objective news story. Wind energy is not suddenly taking hold. In fact, global peak investment in wind happened in 2009 and new wind installs have been in logarithmic decline since then. According to actual wind power production statistics reported by EIA, the dereliction rate of turbines built since 2000 is nearly equal to the new construction rate in 2014. In other words, we are very near "peak wind" in the USA. If the PTC is not renewed, it will likely have occurred in 2014. The offshore projects are relatively small in capacity, are horrendously expensive, and are opposed by a host of groups including environmentalists. Only Enron could twist this into a positive scenario.

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