Report: Wind power could be 35% of supply by 2050
By David Jackson
March 12, 2015
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is setting higher goals for wind power, saying it could supply 35% of the nation’s electricity by the year 2050.
Wind power currently generates 4.5% of electricity, but that number is expected to more than double to 10% by 2020, says a report obtained by USA TODAY that will be released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Energy.
“Wind energy continues to be one of America’s best choices for low-cost, zero-pollution renewable energy, and in an increasing number of markets, may be the cheapest source of new energy available,” says a summary of the report by the Obama administration.
The new report — titled “Wind Vision: A New Era of Wind Power in the United States” — replaces a 2008 document produced during the George W. Bush administration called “20% Wind Energy by 2030.”
Improved technology has made wind power more reliable and cheaper, helping spread it at a faster pace across the nation, administration officials said. The improvements enabled them to make more precise projections in the 2015 report compared with 2008, they said.
“The growth of the industry has really exceeded people’s expectations,” said Jose Zayas, director of the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office at the Department of Energy.
The increasing use of wind power will have both environmental and economic benefits, said the report summary, reducing carbon emissions generated by fossil fuels, lowering energy bills, and generating jobs to build wind farms and other facilities. The Obama administration plans to stress wind power as part of its Climate Action Plan.
Citing the industry’s growth, the report projects a quicker pace for wind power’s contributions to U.S. electricity production, which could accelerate over a longer period of time: Up to 10% by 2020, then 20% by 2030, and then 35% by 2050.
The Energy Department developed the plan with technical assistance from the wind industry and academics.
“We can do this,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, the industry’s trade group. “The industry stands ready to achieve these numbers.”
In its summary of today’s report, the administration said the wind power industry already supports more than 50,000 jobs and supplies enough energy to power 16 million homes. There are wind energy plants in 39 states.
The report projects that the cost of wind energy can be reduced by 37% by 2050, with total consumer savings reaching $14 billion a year by that year.
Wind energy development has attracted more than $100 billion in private investment since 2008, the report said. Since Obama took office in 2009, the electricity from wind power has increased threefold.
If wind energy development does end up contributing 20% of the nation’s electricity by 2030, the industry would create an additional 230,000 jobs, the report summary said. The goal of 35% by 2050 would mean an additional 600,000 jobs, and enough energy to power more than 100 million homes.
The increased jobs include engineers, construction workers, truck drivers, factory workers, utility operators, maintenance technicians, electricians and other supporting services, according to the administration.
“Wind power is a key component of the Obama administration’s all-of-the-above approach to American energy,” says the summary of the report. “A strategy that helps reduce climate-changing carbon emissions, enhances our energy security and supports good-paying American jobs.”