It’s the high-wind scenario: 20% of all US power needs supplied by clean, green wind-power by 2024. A new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) says it’s technically feasible, and that there are multiple scenarios by which it might be realized, given a few important factors.
Factor number one: significant expansion of the transmission infrastructure. Why? Because the places capable of generating the most wind-power aren’t the places that use the most juice. Number two: stability and expense–both of which are improved by drawing wind energy from a larger geographic area (rather than focusing exclusively on the Great Plains, for example.) Number three: overall cost. The study found that the relative price of aggressively expanding the existing transmission grid (factor number one) represents only a small portion of the total annual costs of reaching the 20% benchmark, regardless of which scenario was used. However, the long term gain in all of scenarios studied proved more than worth the short-term pain, due to decreased expenditures on fossil fuels.
“To put the scale of this study in perspective, consider that just over 70 percent of the U.S. population gets its power from the Eastern Interconnect. Incorporating high amounts of wind power in the Eastern grid goes a long way towards clean power for the whole country,” said David Corbus, NREL project manager for the study, in a statement. “We can bring more wind power online, but if we don’t have the proper infrastructure to move that power around, it’s like buying a hybrid car and leaving it in the garage.” The entire study is now available on the NREL’s website.