Illustrating the Wind Energy Story

As detailed in the recently released 2016 Revolution…Now report, the U.S. wind energy industry has forged a trajectory of sustained growth thanks to rapidly decreasing costs and increasing market demand.

Let’s take a deeper dive to better understand where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we’re headed in the near future.

1. The cost of land-based wind has dropped by 41% since 2008, and wind capacity has tripled in the same timeframe.

Chart 1.jpg

As you can see in the chart above, the cost of wind energy has decreased significantly in the past 35 years from more than 60 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 1980 to about 7 cents/kWh today, unsubsidized. Naturally, as wind energy has become less expensive, it has become an increasingly popular renewable energy option around the country. More than 35 years ago there was virtually no wind energy on the U.S. electric grid. Now, there is approximately 75 gigawatts (GW) of wind capacity in the United States. In the past seven years alone, wind power has tripled in capacity from 25 GW to 75 GW, providing more than 5% of our consumed energy.

2. Scaling up size to capture better wind.

Chart 2.jpg

Another trend driving growth in wind farm installations across America’s landscape is the increasing size of wind turbines. As developers deploy larger wind turbines, they are able to generate even more clean electric power by tapping higher quality, steadier winds, which in turn makes more areas in more states attractive for wind deployment. And turbines are slated to grow even taller in the future, so we’ve got nowhere to go but up!

Continued investments in key technology improvements such as taller turbines and longer blades have helped drive down costs and improve performance. For example, wind energy has yet to reach its potential in the southeastern United States. However, by utilizing taller towers and longer blades to extract more energy from stronger winds at higher elevations, we can unleash cost-effective deployment in more regions of the U.S, including the Southeast.

3. The future is here for offshore wind.

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Photo by Dennis Schroeder/NREL

The oceans contain virtually unlimited potential for clean energy. Following on examples from abroad, the United States now (as of October 2016) has wind turbines installed off the coast of Rhode Island. This 30-MW offshore wind farm—America’s first—is slated to be fully operational by the end of the year. Last month, we released the National Offshore Wind Strategy in conjunction with the U.S. Department of the Interior. The strategy document details how the wind industry can accelerate the responsible deployment of offshore wind energy in the United States.

In fact, Revolution…Now states that “the technical potential of offshore wind resources is enough to generate more electricity than twice what the U.S. generated from all sources of electricity in 2015.” While the domestic offshore wind industry still faces challenges, the potential of this technology to capture high quality wind resources close to coastal load centers makes it a key future source of clean electricity for the nation.

4. Wind has great future potential by 2050.

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Wind still has massive untapped potential, as shown in a recent Energy Department report titled Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States, which outlines how wind energy could generate 20% of the nation’s electricity by 2030 and 35% by 2050. Industry observers expect technological advancements to continue to drive down costs in the future. In fact, a recent survey of wind experts indicated that wind energy costs could fall another 35% by 2050. With continuous technological innovation, transmission expansion, and continued federal and state support, wind can continue to grow and unlock its wide array of benefits in all 50 states.

( Source: written by Jose Zayas Wind Energy Technologies Office Director)

New Funding to Advance Solar Technologies

Energy Department Announces Up to $107 Million for Innovative Projects and New Funding to Advance Solar Technologies

Today the Energy Department announced up to $107 million in new projects and planned funding in order to support America’s continued leadership in clean energy innovation through solar technology. Under the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) SunShot Initiative, the Department will fund 40 projects with a total of $42 million to improve PV performance, reliability, and manufacturability, and to enable greater market penetration for solar technologies. In addition to the new projects announced today, the Department intends to make up to $65 million, subject to appropriation, in additional funding available for upcoming solar research and development projects to continue driving down the cost of solar energy and accelerating widespread national deployment.

One of SunShot’s goals is to drive down the levelized cost of utility-scale solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour without incentives by 2020. The projects and new funding announced today aim to reach costs well below that threshold, furthering the Obama Administration’s commitment to advancing solar technology as a resource for clean energy in America’s low-carbon economy.

“Since 2008, the commitments made by the Department of Energy have contributed to solar PV’s deployment growing 30-fold and overall costs falling more than 60%,” said Under Secretary for Science and Energy Franklin Orr. “Continuing to invest in solar technologies will help to drive down costs even further for American consumers and ensure that the U.S. maintains global leadership in this century’s clean energy economy.”

Today’s announcements encompass several programs within EERE’s SunShot Initiative. Additional details on the announcements are below:

PV Research and Development Program: $17 Million for 19 Advanced PV Technologies

SunShot selected 19 projects to receive a total of $17 million under the PV Research and Development Program to improve the performance, reliability, and manufacturability of existing PV technology while seeking to advance next generation solar technology development. The new research and development projects focus on both current and emerging PV technologies aimed at improving power conversion efficiency and energy output, while also enhancing service lifetime and decreasing hardware costs. These projects could significantly lower solar PV costs from SunShot’s 2020 targets to support even more widespread deployment of PV technologies across the nation. Click here to view the list of awardees.

Technology to Market Program:  $25 Million for 21 Rapid Solar Innovation Projects

To accelerate the current growth trajectory of solar energy in America, the Department is also announcing nearly $25 million for 21 new projects under SunShot’s Technology to Market Program. The funding will support the development of new tools, technologies and services for the solar industry by helping to reduce hardware costs, improve business operational efficiency, and broaden the investor pool for project development. Additionally, the projects will yield products that can leverage new, emerging technologies and assist in streamlining regulatory processes. Click here to view the list of awardees.

Future Funding for PV Technology, Technology to Market and Systems Integration Programs

Later this year, SunShot intends to make up to $65 million, subject to appropriation, in additional funding available under the PV Research and Development Program, Technology to Market Program, and its Systems Integration Program. The PV Research and Development Program is expected to make up to $25 million available in funding to improve PV module and system design, including hardware and software solutions that facilitate the rapid installation and interconnection of PV systems. The Technology to Market Program expects up to $30 million to be made available for projects that accelerate the commercialization of products and solutions that can help to drive down the cost of solar energy. Finally, SunShot will make up to $10 million available under its Systems Integration Program for projects that are focused on improving solar irradiance and power forecasts that will accelerate data integration into energy management systems used by utilities.

(Source:  Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy)

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