Windmill from the DOE Report

Wind power got a boost midweek with the U.S. Department of Energy report that condensed to the bare headlines is suggesting that the U.S. is ready to get to 20% of electrical power generation from wind in 2030 or just 21 years out. It’s kind of a landmark to get such notice. A Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner, Suedeen Kelly said, “We must look at meeting future electric demands in a cost-effective way…The 20% wind scenario would only cost 2 percent more than the cost of the baseline scenario without wind. At 50 cents per month for the average ratepayer, that is a small price to pay for the climate, water, natural gas, and energy security benefits it would buy–and it does not even count the stability provided to consumers by eliminating fuel price risk.”

Wind Energy Scenario Issues

The report is big, running 248 pdf pages. Its organized over six main areas, the scenario itself, turbine technology, manufacturing, materials and jobs, transmission and integration, siting and environment and lastly, markets.

Wind Target Capacity by Land Offshore

Chapter 1 runs 20 pages covering the obligatory summary and overview. In the chapter they describe the “scenario” in the context of the geography of available wind, the transmission issues and integration, then the electrical mix and lastly the pace of installations.

Windmill Current Design and Layout

Chapter 2 is about turbine technology and it runs 38 pages. Ranging from a review of today’s technology and “improvements on the horizon”, the report authors touch without allowing any reaches into the possible to firm up the 20-year scenario. The report does just allow a part of a page to research and development. The chapter goes on into risk both technical and financial, off shore technology, the technology in distributed wind power feeds and the needs that continued development would have for policy. While not a technologist read it is a noteworthy attempt to get a handle on the future with low risk assessments in plain view in the closing summary.

Wind Turbine Raw Materials

Chapter 3 gets into the manufacturing, the materials and the jobs issues. At only 12 pages it is the shortest, with the “Challenges” section on one page.


Wind Power New Transmission Line Concept

Chapter 4 gets into what may prove to be the cancer of energy and fuel development. For wind it’s more than turbine siting, its integration into the existing electrical grid and adding transmission lines. At 26 pages, this section seems to gloss over the realities of local folks getting in the way of installing transmission lines. The issue of getting power may well become an issue not of the power but the getting it to who needs it. The report lists a section as “Lessons Learned” but coping with the routing and legal matters sure to crop up is not addressed. That may be appropriate, as the thrust of the report may be more to point up the value of wind before the fight about getting transmission and integration underway.

Chapter 5 dedicates 23 pages to the siting and environmental effects. Stating with the issues today and the concerns the pitch goes into climate change impacts and carbon reductions and emissions. The report goes into wildlife and habitat. It addresses public perceptions and attitudes and very briefly reviews the local state and federal regulatory frameworks. The authors offer up some suggestions for these challenges and take a shot at looking into offshore wind turbine installations. The report even looks at the results in Europe in offshore wind projects.

Chapter 6 is 10 pages of market analysis. With a quick look at the evolution until today the report looks at the utility industry and the federal agencies, The Power Marketing Administration and the issues in compliance voluntary regulation and emissions markets. The main application such as large-scale wind installations, offshore, community, small and “Native American” wind projects are reviewed.

The last 100 or so pages is appendixes, figures and tables. Then there is a review of 5 pages of abbreviations used in the report and supporting documents.

What is missing is storage. I looked the report over and could not find a part dedicated to storing wind power by elevating water, compressing air, battery units or any other idea. That would be the glaring weakness.

On the other hand, the link is for a prepublication version so these matters may be dealt with or not. Alternatively, storage may be a separate field of study. The other missing segment is the rapid pace of technological change that will affect the industry. While I’m not for playing favorites in energy and fuel production, wind power and all the others should have tax incentives and accelerated treatment to depreciate the capital as the life spans look to be pretty short. The effect of such policy will add to the growth and significantly improve the efficiency as technology brings better turbines and supporting equipment to market.

If the main point of the report is to say wind power is now a mature and self supportable lower risk industry, I don’t agree. It is lower risk, but far from mature compared to others such as coal, natural gas and nuclear fission. If American’s wish to use a handy and easily used form of solar power, then wind is the prime answer, but the net rate to consumers cannot be overlooked. What must be done is for policy to assist in driving down costs as well as increasing supply.

As bureaucratic efforts go this is one of the better ones. Created by a contractor, it seems professionally written. You might want to save it; it’s a downloading pdf file and take some time to look it over. There are hundreds of thousands of stockholders if not millions today and all need to give the report a review if not a full reading.


1 Comment so far

  1. A Gust Of Energizing Wind From Government on May 17, 2008 2:03 PM

    […] Go to the author’s original blog: A Gust Of Energizing Wind From Government […]

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