A new report published by the US Department of Energy has shown how the United States can unlock vast additional wind energy resources by tapping into stronger winds higher above the ground.
Unlocking these stronger and more widespread winds could help develop wind energy as a powerful generation tool in every state of America. According to the US Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, these consistent and strong winds are now within reach, thanks to new wind turbine designs.
“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 Moniz, speaking at the WINDPOWER 2015 Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida. “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.”
The report, Enabling Wind Power Nationwide, was published Tuesday, and builds upon the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power report which was released earlier this year, and shows how new wind turbine designs are providing access to the stronger winds consistently at play higher above the ground than previously reached by traditional wind turbines.
“This report 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,” said American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Tom Kiernan. “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.”
Access to higher and stronger winds across all 50 states wasn’t the only takeaway from the report, however, as the DOE’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office “evaluated the potential for wind power to generate electricity in all 50 states” across a number of fields. Specifically, according to the report, “advancements in wind technologies have already yielded broad cost-competitive deployment in locations with high wind speeds.” Furthermore, the authors point to “market trends and technological innovations” as unlocking “cost-effective wind in regions with more moderate wind resources.”
In regards to the advantages provided by increased wind turbine hub heights, the technical potential is estimated to grow to a geographically distributed 4.3 million square kilometres with the increase in hub heights to 110 metres, a growth of 54% compared to current hub heights of 80 metres.
Land area achieving a minimum 30% net capacity factor, based on 2013 technology and an 80 meter hub height
Land area achieving a minimum 30% net capacity factor, based on lower specific power, or the amount of power produced in a given area, (150 W/m2) and a 110 meter hub height
Increasing even further to 140 meters pushes the overall technical potential growth to 67%, introducing the possibility of developing wind energy in new regions such as the Southeast of the US, as well as existing cost-effective areas.
Land area achieving a minimum 30% net capacity factor by grid cell, based on lower specific power (150 W/m2) and a 140-m hub height
“The technological advances described by Secretary Moniz have redrawn the wind resource map, validating the opportunity for all states to host wind development,” Tom Kiernan continued. “Our domestic wind resource is massive – enough to meet our electricity needs 10 times over – but largely untapped.”
Already, wind turbine heights are increasing, with more than 1,000 wind turbines across the US accessing higher wind resources with tower heights of 100 metres or more, compared to 80 metres. Following in the tracks already trod by European wind energy developers, 120 metres could soon be available in the US, “allowing the stronger, steadier winds at that elevation to be tapped,” said the American Wind Energy Association.
“Europe has already demonstrated you can safely use significantly taller towers without compromising air traffic needs,” said Patrick Woodson, Chairman, E.ON North American Wind. “Heading down this path will open several new US areas for development and will provide another means to bring jobs and investment to areas that simply are not economic without them.”
Specifically, the aforementioned DOE Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power report highlights select areas in the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast that are expected to see economical wind development for the first time thanks to the development of new wind turbine technology, including states with no current commercial wind turbines like Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.