Wind power in the U.S. appears to have taken a turn for the worse this week with T. Boone Pickens’ announcement that he is scrapping plans to build the world’s biggest wind farm in Texas. But according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the wind situation isn’t too dire–yet.
AWEA’s “20% Report Card” looks at the feasability of the U.S. generated 20% of power from wind by 2030. Despite solid gains in 2008, AWEA predicts that wind power generation will continue to slow this year. The report card gives the U.S. a B for its overall current progress, but slaps the country with a C- on transmission. Pickens canceled his Texas project because of a lack of available transmission lines.
In order to continue on a path towards 20% wind power, AWEA suggests that the U.S. adopt a strong Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) with aggressive short-term targets in the contentious Waxman-Markey climate change bill, which is currently pending in Congress. AWEA also recommends that special attention be paid to building new transmission lines quickly. Because rural wind farms are great, but they’re useless without transmission lines to take power to major cities.
If production of wind farms and transmission lines don’t ramp up quickly, wind power goals will remain out of reach. AWEA notes that installation of new wind power capacity will have to grow to over 16,000 megawatts per year by 2016 and continue at that rate until 2030 if the U.S. is to reach its targets. The organization doesn’t take into account other forms of renewable energy generation such as solar power, but all alternative power sources will stagnate if a transmission infrastructure isn’t built.