Wind Energy Expected to Accelerate the Pace, Experts Say

by | Oct 6, 2016

windfarmoffshoreAs renewable energy accelerates its pace in electricity markets, one such fuel has seemingly hit stride: wind energy, which is expected to see further price drops because of economies of scale and technological improvements. The cost of producing electricity via wind power is expected to fall 24-30 percent by 2030 and 35-41 percent by 2050, according to a survey of the world’s foremost wind power experts.

That’s the conclusion of the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which worked in tandem with the University of Massachusetts and participants in the International Energy Agency (IEA) Wind Technology Collaboration Programme. Their findings were published in the journal Nature Energy. 

According to a release by the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colo.,  the study summarizes a global survey of 163 wind energy experts to gain insight into the possible magnitude of future wind energy cost reductions, the sources of those reductions, and the enabling conditions needed to realize continued innovation and lower costs. Three wind applications were covered: onshore wind, offshore wind, and floating offshore wind. 

Under a “best guess” (or median) scenario, the release continues, experts anticipate 24-30 percent reductions in the levelized cost of energy by 2030 and 35-41 percent reductions by 2050 across the three wind applications studied, relative to 2014 baseline values. In absolute terms, onshore wind is expected to remain less expensive than offshore, at least for typical projects-and fixed-bottom offshore wind less expensive than floating wind plants. Levelized cost refers to the cost of generating a unit of electricity over the lifetime of that asset. 

“Wind energy costs have declined dramatically in recent years, leading to substantial growth in deployment. But we wanted to know about the prospects for continued technology advancements and cost reductions,” said Ryan Wiser, senior scientist at the Berkeley Lab, in Nature Energy

 “Our ‘expert elicitation’ survey complements other methods for evaluating cost-reduction potential by shedding light on how cost reductions might be realized and by clarifying the important uncertainties in these estimates,” Wiser added. 

That’s good news for an industry that is expected to play a big part in the pending Clean Power Plan: It will comprise about 57 percent of the compliance mix, although the resources will be distributed in geographies where wind is abundant — but where carbon reductions are most needed, says the US Energy Information Administration

To reach President Obama’s 32 percent carbon cut target from 2005 levels, the wind industry says that it will require large utility-scale projects and that smaller distributed generation assets won’t do the trick. That favors wind power development, which can also deliver electricity at competitive prices. Meantime, emerging wind technologies such as low-wind speed turbines and taller towers will increase efficiencies.

How do the presidential candidates feel about wind?

Donald Trump: “The wind kills all your birds. All your birds, killed. You know, the environmentalists never talk about that.”

Hillary Clinton: “I will strongly support a renewable portfolio standard, with 25 percent of electricity coming from wind, solar, and other renewable sources by 2025 … As president, to help us reach 25 percent by 2025, I will make the production tax credit for wind and solar permanent. No more guessing what you’re going to get as you move forward with your production.”

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