Wednesday July 6th 2011


NREL: US has three times more wind electrictiy potential than previously thought

Today’s guest blogger is Tom Kenworthy, Senior Fellow at American Progress.

Last month, an NREL study showed that America could generate 20% percent of its power just with wind by 2024.  That would require about 300,000 MW or 300 GW.  The ultimate potential is much, much higher — 30 times higher (!) — as Tom Kenworthy, CAP’s Senior Fellow based in Colorado, explains.

Thanks to improvements in wind turbines over the last decade and a half, the United States has the potential to generate more than three times as much electricity from wind as previously thought, according to a new analysis from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The assessment of onshore wind energy potential found that the U.S. could produce almost 37 million gigawatt-hours yearly. According to the American Wind Energy Association, that’s nine times our current annual electricity consumption.

Expressed as gigawatts rather than gigawatt hours, the new estimate for the U.S. wind resource is 10,000 gigawatts, an amount that dwarfs currently installed wind power which totals about 35 gigawatts – enough to power 9.7 million homes. Obviously there’s plenty more where that comes from, even more if offshore wind is included.

NREL’s last analysis in 1993, when wind turbine heights were more limited, estimated U.S. onshore wind potential at less than 10.8 million gigawatt hours.

As noted by Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, the new assessment is more than a number, it’s another compelling argument for passage of comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation by Congress:

This new analysis confirms that America is blessed with vast wind resources that can energize our economy, create jobs, and avoid carbon for years to come—if we give ourselves the policy tools to do so, including a strong national Renewable Electricity Standard with aggressive, binding near- and long-term targets.  A national Renewable Electricity Standard would not only ensure that we tap our nation’s vast wind resources, but create thousands of new American jobs today, manufacturing the 8,000 component parts that go into a modern wind turbine. The wind resource is there, vast and inexhaustible, waiting for us. Meanwhile, the economy can’t wait, job creation can’t wait, and America can’t wait. We need Congress to act now and pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill that includes a strong national Renewable Electricity Standard.

Amen to that.

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This article was originally posted on Climate Progress