Project Development, Utility Scale, Wind Power

Budget Cuts to Wind Research Are Foolish

The American Wind Energy Association has criticized the Bush Administration for proposing deep cuts in funding for the federal wind energy R&D program and other renewable energy research efforts.

WASHINGTON, DC, US, 2001-04-19 <SolarAccess.com> “Cutting wind energy R&D efforts during an energy crisis is penny wise and pound foolish,” says Jaime Steve. “Continued investment in clean, domestic energy alternatives like wind power will allow the industry to keep driving down costs by improving the efficiency of new high-tech wind turbines.” “Just as wind-generated electricity is becoming a cost-competitive power source, the Bush Administration proposes pulling the rug out from under the industry,” he adds. “These cuts are not a sensible component of sound energy strategy.” AWEA says prices for wind generation range from 3 to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, depending on project size, local wind speeds, and availability of the 1.5c/kWh federal production tax credit. “Federal wind program personnel at the Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have worked long and hard to develop a research program that cooperates with industry in solving real-world challenges,” says Steve. The cost for utility-scale wind power has been reduced by 80 percent over the last 20 years, but additional research is needed to develop turbines that can operate in lower wind speeds and expand the potential for wind energy by 20 times, as well as allow turbines to be placed closer to existing transmission lines. Wind energy currently generates 2,500 MW of electricity in the U.S., sufficient for 600,000 homes or 1.5 million people. This figure is expected to double by near year. “As the demand for electricity is increasing, now is not the time to abandon these successful efforts,” adds Steve. DOE’s wind program currently receives $40 million in funding, of which $5 million is earmarked for R&D on small wind systems (less than 75 kW). AWEA had been seeking an increase to $55 million, including $10 million for small wind systems. California has 1,646 MW of installed capacity with 11,700 turbines, with 272 MW in Minnesota, 242 MW in Iowa and 188 MW in Texas. Around the world, there is 17,000 MW of capacity, generating 34 billion kWh a year, and the global market for wind has been growing at 29 percent for last five years. The largest proposed wind farms are the Stateline (Oregon-Washington) with 300 MW, King Mountain in Texas with 278 MW, the Nevada Test Site with 260 MW, and Kvitfjell in Norway with 200 MW. Currently, the largest operating wind farm is Storm Lake in Iowa at 196.5 MW. A wind turbine runs at its full rated power output level for 10 percent of the time, says AWEA documents, and generates some power 60 to 80 percent of the time. On an annual average, it generates 30 to 35 percent of what it would generate if it ran at full power all the time.