Recognizing the importance of addressing the climate change crisis and reducing dependence upon foreign oil and gas, the US Department of Energy (USDOE) has launched an aggressive program aiming to meet 20% of America’s energy needs via wind by 2030. In conjunction with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the USDOE produced a study assessing the economic and environmental costs and benefits of achieving this goal.
The study can be read in its entirety at and concludes more than 500,000 jobs would be supported with an increase of 100,000 jobs in supporting industries and 200,000 more jobs through economic expansion at the local level. Other economic gains are expected annual property tax increases of $1.5B by 2030 and electric price stability.
Deploying wind energy and displacing fossil fuel powered plants will result in 825 million metric tons less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030. Power generation presently accounts for 40% of CO2 emissions in the US. Wind energy, unlike fossil fuel or nuclear generated power does not require water so water consumption will drop also.
The study focuses entirely on centralized wind energy or large wind farms despite growing and successful implementation of distributed renewable energy systems in Europe. Nevertheless, the study reveals that successful deployment of an additional 304GW of wind power to meet the 20% goal is dependent upon massive investment in the transmission grid infrastructure. Consequently, 19,000 miles of new 765-kilovolt (kV) transmission lines, for an estimated price tag of US $60 billion are being proposed to Congress by high powered energy players like T Boone Pickens.
Other challenges to the centralized model include the need to develop larger electric load balancing areas, in tandem with better regional planning to implement generation diversity. According to the study, the US must increase annual wind power installation by 16GW by 2018, within ten years. Obtaining permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other affected agencies in order to build out the transmission infrastructure to support this growth can take up to ten years. This is one reason the European Distributed Energy Partnership (EUDEEP) formed to implement wide scale distributed energy production to avoid many of these barriers and costs.
Significantly, the study acknowledges that a “business-as-usual” approach will not meet these goals. A major national commitment to clean energy, CO2 reductions and independence from foreign resources is required at a grass roots level. From a grass roots level it will also be possible to demonstrate that wide scale distributed energy systems can work in the US not just Europe and elsewhere. Happily, there are several people working on making the South Coast of Oregon a model of energy independence that the rest of the nation can build upon.
Please permit me a little divergence from topic here but I hope that in the inevitable debates to ensue during an election year we can focus on issues and not stoop to exposing verbal gaffes and sartorial faux pas. If you want to criticize Obama, criticize him, a constitutional lawyer, for eviscerating the 4th Amendment with his recent vote on the FISA bill. Or criticize him for his hawkish view on Iran or his votes for emergency defense spending more than five years after the ‘emergency’, not because he said fifty seven states instead of fifty on the campaign trail.
Criticize McCain for not defending the 4th Amendment and not voting on the FISA bill, for voting against an increase in GI benefits and for voting to continuing emergency defense spending five years after the ‘emergency’. Don’t criticize him because he thinks Iraq and Pakistan share a common border, (a really wide border called Iran). The future of this country is worthy of better debate and time is too short to waste on anything less than serious issues.