New DOE Report Analyzes a Path to 20% Wind Power by 2030

May 12, 2008

Photo of seven wind turbines in an array on an agricultural field.

Wind power has been growing at a rapid pace in recent years, but to meet the 20% goal, the pace will need to triple by 2017. Enlarge this photo.
Credit: Todd Spink

Wind power could provide 20% of U.S. electricity needs by 2030, according to a new DOE report. The report, titled "20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy's Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply," identifies the steps that need to be addressed to reach the 20% goal, including reducing the cost of wind technologies, building new transmission infrastructure, and enhancing domestic manufacturing capability. Released on May 12, the report was produced by DOE and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories with the assistance of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), engineering consultants from Black and Veatch Corporation, and more than 50 energy organizations and corporations.

According to the report, reaching the 20% goal will require boosting wind power from its current generating capacity of 16.8 gigawatts (GW) to 304 GW in 2030, an 18-fold increase. Despite the magnitude of that challenge, most of the report's key findings are encouraging. Notably, the report concludes that 20% wind power can be reliably integrated into the grid at an additional cost of less than 0.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. This compares favorably to 8.9 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is today's average retail price of electricity in the United States. In addition, the demand for copper, fiberglass, and other raw materials needed to build the wind power facilities will not be prohibitive to reaching the 20% goal. However, the report also identifies several challenges that need to be overcome. Achieving 20% wind power by 2030 will require that the annual installations of wind power increase threefold, from today's 2,000 annual turbine installations to almost 7,000 per year by 2017. Also, new transmission lines will need to be installed to reach the most productive wind resource sites.

But between now and the time the goal is reached, wind power will have avoided the emission of 7.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide, helping to forestall the growth in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants. The 304 GW of wind power will also continue avoiding 825 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year thereafter. For comparison, the United States currently emits about 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. While helping to address greenhouse gas emissions, the accelerated wind power effort would support roughly 500,000 U.S. jobs and add more than $1.5 billion in annual revenues to the coffers of local communities. For more information, see the press releases from DOE and AWEA, the 20% Wind Energy by 2030 Web site, DOE's Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program Web site, and the full text of the report (PDF 3.95 MB). Download Adobe Reader.