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The Department of Energy (DOE) issued a report in May, 2008 that sets a goal of “20% Wind Energy by 2030”. The report documents the very rapid growth and technological advancements taking place in the wind industry; the report also dispelled some myths about the industry.
Wind energy now generates close to 10% of electrical power in some regions of the United States, 8% in Germany, and over 20% in Denmark (2008, p. 54). Not only is wind energy big, it is growing fast (see chart below). In 2007 alone wind capacity in the U.S. grew 45 % (5,244 MW); 2007 saw twice the installations of 2006 (2,454 MW) (p.22).
The rapid growth of wind farms is accompanied by rapid changes in the technology that enables them. One peculiar aspect of this advancement is the growth in physical size of wind turbines. Because wind speeds increase with altitude, modern wind turbines have grown much taller. This increase in size however is expected to slow due to logistics involved in transportation of components, crane size, and other design constraints.
The DOE addresses various environmental criticisms including noise and bird deaths. Wind turbines are currently responsible for far less than 1% of total bird deaths caused by all human activities. More serious environmental concerns are raised by sharply contrasting coal and wind-farm electricity-generation scenarios. Wind farms leave the land habitable to farms, ranches and wildlife. By contrast, coal mining is projected to disturb more than 153,000 hectares of high-quality "mature deciduous forests" in the United States over the next ten years in the Appalachian region of the country according to the National Wildlife Federation (p.130). If the twenty percent scenario is achieved by 2030, this would curtail the electricity sector’s projected coal and gas requirements by 18% and 50% respectively (p.175).
The Dep't of Energy's report (pdf) can be viewed here in its entirety.
For more DOE wind-energy news, check the digg, Google and Bing news feeds below: