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Go Green with GBO: ‘Windy’ future for US energy sector

The Energy Department produced a paper in 2008 that looked at the technological viability of using wind energy to provide 20% of the country's electricity needs by 2030

An elite group of academics, scientists, engineers, and professionals from the wind industry have spent the last two years revisiting the conclusions of the ‘20% Wind by 2030’ report and building on them to develop a new vision for wind energy through the year 2050.

The recent ‘Wind Vision Report’ specifies the societal, environmental, and economic benefits of wind power in a scenario where wind energy supplies 10% of Uncle Sam’s domestic electricity in 2020, 20% in 2030, and 35% in 2050, taking into consideration all aspects of wind energy (land-based, offshore, and dispersed).

The Energy Department produced a paper in 2008 that looked at the technological viability of using wind energy to provide 20% of the country’s electricity needs by 2030. The DOE and its national laboratories, the wind industry, electric utilities, and other organizations have all contributed to the paper 20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply. The paper looks at the prices, significant effects, and difficulties of producing 300 GW of wind power by 2030, or 20% of total energy production.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that from 2005 to 2030, the demand for electricity in the United States will increase by 39%, reaching 5.8 billion megawatt-hours (MWh). The capacity of American wind energy would need to exceed 300 gigawatts (GW) or 300,000 megawatts (MW) to supply 20% of that demand. In just 23 years, this rise amounts to an increase of more than 290 GW.

The report found that it will take upgraded transmission lines, faster permitting and siting procedures, more reliable and operable wind systems, and more wind manufacturing capacity in the United States to get 20% wind energy.

Moreover, the number of wind turbine installations must increase from roughly 2000 per year in 2006 to almost 7,000 per year in 2017 to reach the 20% wind energy target.

Relating 20% of wind energy into the grid is feasible at 5 cents per kWh, and achieving 20% of wind energy is independent of the availability of raw resources.

To reach 20% wind energy, addressing transmission issues like siting and cost allocation of new transmission lines will be necessary to access the nation’s finest wind resources.

Because transmission lines can last more than 50 years and wind turbines typically have a service life of at least 20 years, investments to reach 20% wind power by 2030 might continue to provide clean energy until 2050. By 2050, avoiding 20% of current CO2 emissions from wind power might prevent more than 15,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions (4,182 million metric tons of carbon equivalents).

This 20% Wind Scenario would replace much fossil fuel power. The WinDS model predicts that by 2030, wind generation will replace 50% of natural gas- and coal-generated electricity, respectively. Coal displacement is significant because it offers a better chance to reduce carbon emissions.

Given that coal power will continue to play a significant part in electricity production, a substantial increase in overall wind capacity could delay the need to develop some new coal capacity, preventing or delaying the increases in carbon emissions that would follow. According to current DOE forecasts, 140 GW of new coal plant capacity will be built by 2030; however, the 20% Wind Scenario could prevent the building of more than 80 GW of new coal capacity.

The 20% Wind Scenario considers the possibility of dramatically increasing American wind power production capacity. This wind development, including onshore and offshore wind projects, will employ more than 32,000 full-time people in U.S. manufacturing by 2026.

The production of the primary and supporting parts for the turbines, towers, and blades in the United States directly impacts employment. The manufacturing and construction sectors can maintain high jobs and develop further to satisfy rising global demand, even while the domestic wind installations drop after 2021 in the scenario model.

Using wind energy instead of fossil fuels, meeting current emission limits for common pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury is possible.

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