Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy released a report announcing wind power can provide up to 20 percent of the nation's total electricity needs by 2030. Based on projected increases in electricity demand, the report states wind power would reach 300,000 megawatts by 2030, a 290,000 MW increase over that installed in the U.S. by the end 2006. To achieve these numbers, over 7,000 industrial wind turbines would need to be erected across the country every year for the next 23 years. The report labels the 20% vision "ambitious", but "feasible".
The report also openly acknowledges a fundamental limitation of wind. Section 4.1.6 states "Wind is an energy resource, not a capacity resource." Simply put, wind is not a resource they expect to be available on demand or to meet system peak loads. The report goes on to state "Wind power cannot replace the need for many 'capacity resources' ... that are available to be used when needed to meet peak load." It then adds that "if wind has some capacity value for reliability planning purposes, that should be viewed as a bonus, but not a necessity." This admission alone should lead some to question whether any large penetration of wind in the grid system is even worth considering.
Before DOE embarks on a mission to promote its 20% in 2030 vision, Windaction.org calls on the Agency to explain to the public how many additional megawatts of reliable (non-wind) generation will be needed to meet demand at those times of day and times of year when the wind is not blowing.