U.S. Adds Wind Farms, But Transmission Infrastructure Lags

by | Jul 9, 2009

windinstallationsThe U.S. gets a solid “B” for its 2008 progress toward reaching the 20 percent of electricity supply from wind energy by 2030, but only a C- grade for its transmission efforts, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). AWEA is calling for a strong and immediate national policy commitment to renewable energy to meet the “20% Wind” commitment by 2030.

AWEA’s “20% Wind Report Card” follows up on the release of the “20% Wind by 2030 Technical Report” by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in May 2008.

The AWEA Report Card graded other key indicators: Technology Development A-, Manufacturing B+, and Siting B.  (The report card does not grade progress on national policies to advance wind power because they were not covered in the DOE report.)

In 2008, the U.S. made significant strides toward 20 percent wind, with wind accounting for 40 percent of the nation’s new generating capacity, according to the report card.  In 2009, wind farm development is expected to slow sharply.

To get the U.S. back on track to reach the 20 percent wind by 2030, AWEA said Congress needs to enact a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) with strong near-term targets, which will give businesses the certainty they need to invest in factories in the U.S., and energy legislation that addresses top transmission issues such as planning, paying for and siting new power lines.

AWEA’s report comes in the wake of Texas billionaire T. Boone Picken’s announcement to delay his plans to build the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas panhandle and instead build several smaller-scale farms because of transmission constraints and financing problems, reports Reuters.

Pickens said in the article that he had planned to install 4,000 megawatts of wind turbines, which could power about 1.2 million average homes by 2014 at a cost of $8 billion. But now, instead of installing more than 600 wind turbines ordered by Mesa Power LLP last year for the first $2 billion phase of the project, he will likely develop a number of smaller wind farms, according to Reuters.

Other wind farm projects in the U.S. appear to moving ahead with their plans.

In California, an American Indian tribe, Invenergy and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) recently announced a partnership to build California’s second-largest wind-power project in the mountains east of San Diego at the Campo reservation, reports SignOnSanDiego.com.

When completed in two years, the 160-megawatt wind farm will produce more than three times the power generated by a similar project on the same reservation 60 miles east of San Diego, according to SignOnSanDiego.com. Chicago-based Invenergy will build and run the $300 million project and SDG&E will buy the power, enough for 104,000 homes at peak production, according to the newspaper. Final terms are still under negotiation.

Also in the western region of the country, Tri-State Generation and Transmission announced earlier this week its plans for a major new wind farm on Colorado’s Eastern Plains, reports the Colorado Independent. The proposed 51-megawatt Kit Carson Windpower Project will be built and operated by Duke Energy, and Tri-State would have a 20-year deal to purchase wind energy from the wind farm, according to the newspaper.

The Kit Carson wind farm, scheduled to be online by the end of 2010, will be comprised of 34 1.5-megawatt General Electric turbines on a 6,000-acre site, reports Colorado Independent. Tri-State said in the article that no new transmission facilities will be required for the system, which will be connected to the utility’s existing 230-kilovolt line.

In the Midwest, state regulators plan to vote this week on a Wisconsin utility’s plans to build a massive wind farm in southern Minnesota that would generate about 200 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 50,000 homes, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Wisconsin Power & Light Co., a subsidiary of Madison-based Alliant Energy, wants permission to start the first phase of the farm on 32,500 acres in Freeborn County, which according to state estimates could cost nearly $500 million for the wind farm, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The first phase of the project calls for building about 122 turbines; each 400 feet tall with 130-foot blades, according to the newspaper. They would be operational by 2011.

Globally, wind farm projects are getting mixed reviews with some scale backs.

Earlier this week, Boralex Inc. and Gaz Metro Ltd. told Reuters they received an environmental green light from the province of Quebec, Canada, for two wind power projects they plan to develop with a total installed capacity of 272 megawatts. The Seigneurie de Beaupre wind farms should be operational in December 2013.

China announced it will begin construction of a 120-billion yuan ($17.6 billion) wind power project in about two weeks in Gansu province as part of a major push to boost renewable energy and cut the nation’s reliance on coal, according to the official Xinhua news agency, reports Reuters.

The project, “The Three Gorges Dam on the land” could be China’s biggest wind power station, with an installed capacity of 20 gigawatts (GW) by 2020, according to the report.

However, in the UK, Scottish & Southern Energy PLC (SSE) recently announced it was scaling down capacity by around 100 megawatts at its Clyde wind farm in southern Scotland, one of Europe’s largest onshore wind farms, reports Reuters. SSE said in the article that the wind farm will have a total capacity of 350 MW, instead of 456 MW.

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