Today, we heard a major announcement from the nation's highest ranking energy official who unveiled maps showing potential for wind energy development in all 50 states. At the WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & Exhibition, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz revealed a new report showing that technology improvements that allow wind turbines to capture more energy can unlock every state in America for possible wind development.
"Wind generation has more than tripled in the United States in just six years, exceeding 4.5 percent of total generation, and we are focused on expanding its clean power potential to every state in the country," said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. "By producing the next generation of larger and more efficient wind turbines, we can create thousands of new jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as we fully unlock wind power as a critical national resource."
This report, "Enabling Wind Power Nationwide," is great news for consumers, job-seekers, rural communities and many others in these states that have yet to fully benefit from American wind power. Wind turbine technology has advanced in just a few decades from the Model T era to more like that of a Tesla Model S. Advanced towers, blades and improved electronics to operate and maintain the turbines are all part of this revolution.
The technological advances described by Secretary Moniz have redrawn the wind resource map, validating the opportunity for all states to host wind energy development. Our domestic wind resource is massive - enough to meet our electricity needs 10 times over - but largely untapped.
So what does the report show exactly? Maps from the Department of Energy (below) show the U.S. lighting up with significant wind energy potential as wind turbines become more advanced and are able to access the stronger, steadier winds at higher altitudes.
Figure 1. Land area achieving a minimum 30 percent net capacity factor (percentage of the maximum rated capacity that a turbine generates year-round), based on 2013 technology and 80 meter hub heights
These maps show an impressive leap in what is achievable with technical advances. They build on the Department of Energy's "Wind Vision" report, which found wind could provide 20 percent of the U.S.'s electricity by 2030. According to that report, select areas in the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast are expected to see economical wind deployment for the first time due to factors that include this next generation of wind turbine technology, with Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, which currently have no commercial wind turbines, and additional parts of Michigan and Minnesota seeing development. The report further found that wind could provide 35 percent of the U.S.'s electricity by 2050 with installations in every state.
Policymakers and energy industry leaders will have to create a fair environment for this "Wind Vision" to become reality. If they do, here are some of the benefits that Americans would enjoy:
• Consumers will see direct savings as wind technology continues to improve and fossil fuel energy sources become more expensive, with annual consumer savings reaching $14 billion a year by 2050.
• By providing 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030, wind energy would support 380,000 well-paying jobs. By 2050, wind energy would support 600,000 well-paying jobs.
• By providing 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030, wind energy would provide nearly $1.8 billion a year in tax payments to communities. By 2050, wind energy would provide nearly $3.2 billion a year in tax payments to communities.
• Wind energy has already cut electric sector carbon emissions by over 5 percent; those emissions will fall by an additional 16 percent by 2030 as wind increases from 4.5 percent of our electricity mix to 20 percent. Cumulatively through 2050, wind's pollution reductions would avoid $400 billion in climate change damages.
• Wind would save an additional $108 billion in public health costs by cutting other air pollutants, including preventing 22,000 premature deaths.
• Wind would conserve 260 billion gallons of water a year by 2050, displacing 23 percent of total U.S. power plant water consumption.
• By providing 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030, wind energy would provide $650 million in annual lease payments to landowners. By 2050, wind energy would provide $1 billion in annual lease payments to landowners.