Weren’t we just saying that the Department of the Interior has pulled a classic deke on the Koch brothers’ efforts to thwart Atlantic coast offshore wind power? Well, we did just say that, and now the other shoe has dropped. No wait, make that two other shoes. The Department of Energy has just released two new US wind power reports that will probably set our friends over at Koch Industries running down the hall with their hair on fire.
Among other things, the new Energy Department wind power reports address one of our favorite lines of argument, which is that future global energy market winners will no longer be trucking mass quantities of fossil fuels around the country and the world. Instead, the winners will be exporting technology that enables communities to harvest sustainable energy locally, from wind as well as solar, biomass, geothermal and other renewables.
Btw pardon us if we seem rather irritated today but we just realized that we missed like five episodes of The Leftovers and nobody told us this was the last season for True Blood so #welcometomyworld.
Great News For US Wind Industry!
We’ve been hammering away at this point for a while now, but it bears repeating. Once you send people to the moon and bring them back in one piece, find a surefire way to prevent polio, and shrink a roomful of processors down to the size of a smartphone, science is trying to tell you that digging fuel out of the ground and schlepping it for long distances is…ummm…how can we put this delicately…not a good idea any more, despite the predilections of some people with deep pockets and close connections (as in thisclose) to the John Birch Society.
The two new wind power reports are intended to boost awareness about growth in the US wind industry and raise support for the beleaguered federal production tax credit for wind power, as explained by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz:
…the continued success of the U.S. wind industry highlights the importance of policies like the Production Tax Credit that provide a solid framework for America to lead the world in clean energy innovation while also keeping wind manufacturing and jobs in the U.S.
The Wind Technologies Market Report
First up is the 2013 Wind Technologies Market Report, produced by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
As we’ve been tracking with our sister site PlanetSave, the report notes that the cost of wind energy is dropping through the floor, making it an attractive buy for utilities looking for good deals.
At 61 gigawatts, 2013 installed wind capacity met almost 4.5 percent of average yearly electricity demand in the US, so the industry still has some catching up to do. However, the report notes that the US wind industry has already provided the US with a new export sector:
…the success of the U.S. wind industry has had a ripple effect on the American economy, spurring more than $500 million in exports and supporting jobs related to development, siting, manufacturing, transportation and other industries.
The Distributed Wind Market Report
When we dropped in on the Ceres 2014 Investor Summit on Climate Risk at the UN last January, the buzz on wind power was that the US wind market has already matured. That may be true of utility scale wind farms, but according to the Distributed Wind Market Report it looks like there is plenty of room for growth at the smaller end.
The report, produced by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, notes that 80 percent of wind turbines installed in the US have gone to distributed applications, defined as turbines that directly power local or hyper-local grids. Included in this category are full scale, multi-megawatt turbines as well as micro wind turbines.
The numbers add up to 72,000 turbines since 2003, located in every state as well as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
As for exports, the full title of the report is “Distributed Wind Market Report: Small Turbines Lead to Big Growth in Exports.” It notes that in 2013, micro wind turbines were exported from the US to 50 other countries, led by Italy, the UK, Germany, Greece, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, and Nigeria.
As for that third shoe, all this activity in the US wind sector has been going on without even tapping into the country’s vast offshore wind potential.
Part of the offshore wind power delay can be attributed to lobbying efforts by various Koch brothers, which is no surprise since their hand is also evident in efforts to quash onshore wind power.
Nevertheless, this summer the Obama Administration has been making a big push for wind power, maneuvering around the Koch obstacles by focusing on the development of Atlantic coast wind resources.
In the latest development on offshore wind, last week Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that her agency has identified three new areas off North Carolina for Atlantic coast wind energy development.
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