10. Wind

J. Outlook for Wind Power

Although there are constraints on wind energy development, a recent analysis[20] indicates that there are 240,000 square miles (625,000 square kilometers) of land with the potential for wind development within 10 miles of transmission lines to support wind energy development in the United States (Figure 23.). Assumingclass 3 and above wind resources and turbines with 50-meter hub heights centered on plots 10 rotor diameters by 5 rotor diameters in size,(21) that land area could potentially accommodate 734,000 average megawatts(22) of wind energy generation capability.(23) This is roughly equivalent to the installed capacity of all the power plants in the United States. Site-specific, transmission-related questions do remain, but the need for proximity to transmission lines does not overly constrain wind energy development in the United States.

The future of wind electricity is far from certain. Currently, planned additions to wind capacity will be built almost equally by utilities and nonutilities (Table 34.). Of the five utility-planned units, two are located in Wisconsin and three in Texas. Completion dates of 2000 are scheduled by Wisconsin Electric Power Company and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation for both of that State's wind projects. In Texas, wind projects are scheduled for completion in 1999, 2003, and 2004 by Texas Utilities Electric Company.

In many cases, the planned projects were not selected because of their economic competitiveness, but were initiated because State governments or Public Utility Commissions provided additional incentives for development. Among the States with special incentives are California, New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

In addition, many utilities are contracting for small amounts of wind energy on an experimental basis because wind holds considerable promise over the long run, especially as turbine costs come down and fossil fuel prices potentially increase. Since renewables generally are not cost-competitive for utility applications, information about some State incentives is highlighted below. Examples of wind projects are discussed, with emphasis on the reasons for project selection.

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