Wind Can Supply 20% of U.S. Electricity, Report Says

Using wind to produce power could avert the need for new coal-fired plants.
Using wind to produce power could avert the need for new coal-fired plants. (By Sandy Huffaker -- Associated Press)

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By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Energy Department said yesterday that the United States has the ability to meet 20 percent of its electricity-generation needs with wind by 2030, enough to displace 50 percent of natural gas consumption and 18 percent of coal consumption.

But in a report drawn up by its national laboratories, the department said that meeting the target would require more improvements in turbine technology, cost reductions, new transmission lines, an expansion of the wind industry and a fivefold increase in the pace of wind-turbine installation.

The report said a boost in wind capacity to 20 percent of electricity generation "could potentially defer the need to build some new coal capacity, avoiding or postponing the associated carbon emissions." The department said that expanding the use of wind to generate power could avert a need for more than 80 gigawatts of new coal-fired generating capacity; its current projections say that new coal-fired plants capable of producing about 140 gigawatts of power could be built by 2030 to meet rising demand.

The report noted that a big expansion of wind-power generation would also cut the amount of water used by the electricity industry by 17 percent by 2030.

The report said that, under "optimistic assumptions," expanding wind generation to meet 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs by 2030 would cost nearly $197 billion, but it said that most of that would be offset by nearly $155 billion in lower fuel expenditures. There would be, it said, other offsetting positive effects.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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