Energy Department Determines 35% U.S. Wind By 2050 Is Achievable

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has previewed an ambitious vision for the growth of U.S. wind energy to account for 35% of the nation's grid by 2050.

At the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) WINDPOWER 2014 Conference & Exhibition, being held this week in Las Vegas, the DOE revealed preliminary findings of its Wind Vision initiative: 10% wind energy by 2020, 20% by 2030 and 35% by 2050.

According to AWEA, that will require as much growth in the next six years as the past 40. Jose Zayas, the director of the DOE's Wind and Water Power Technologies Office, said research so far suggests the benefits to the U.S. could include the following:

– $520 billion saved for electric consumers between now and 2050, when electricity will cost 3% less than it otherwise would;
– 336 billion gallons of water saved by 2050; and
– 140,000 industry jobs by 2020 and 400,000 jobs by 2050, plus spin-off benefits.

AWEA says the current draft of the Wind Vision suggests that approximately 10 GW per year would be deployed over the next several years, including substantial offshore wind starting to come online by the latter part of this decade, and major repowering of older projects starting by the mid-20s. The industry has proven it can manufacture and install more than that annually, so "we have the ability to do this," said Zayas. "This is achievable."

Susan Reilly, newly installed as AWEA Board Chair, agreed with Zayas that the industry can deliver on the Wind Vision, particularly because of the growing urgency over cutting carbon emissions to avert climate change. By 2050, the DOE's initial projections are that U.S. wind energy will cut 550 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Reilly said further peer review this summer is welcome and essential: "This is not a sales document. It's got to be intellectually robust and stand up to scrutiny."

The DOE's draft document will be circulated by June, and then peer review will continue with industry experts. The Wind Vision will be finalized and released to the public this fall.

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