Monday, August 7, 2017

A Brief History of Wind Energy - USA

Subtitle:  It Took 30 Years But We Made Wind Profitable

This is just a start on a longer article that discusses why we have wind energy subsidies and grants in the US.   The short answer is, the US government got tired of having to import energy and at one point the experts told government we were running out of natural gas.  The gas industry took that as a challenge and proceeded to drill in novel ways and find huge amounts of natural gas.    Gas became cheap, and wind energy could not yet compete, so government extended the subsidies until 2021.  By then, onshore wind turbine generators can compete without assistance.    This will be added to from time to time. 

Some of these events are described briefly by the DoE at this link.

1973 - Arab oil embargo increased gasoline prices; 1973 and again 1979 with Iranian revolution.  America decides to act, to reduce our energy consumption across all sectors.

1977 President Carter's famous sweater speech; he tells the nation we are running out of energy (including natural gas) and all must conserve. Public fountains across the US go dry as pumps are switched off.  Cities and towns across the US have no Christmas lights that year. 

1978  President Carter signed PURPA, the Public Utilities Regulatory Act, which made utilities purchase electricity from small renewable plants, including wind.  Industries across the country built their own cogeneration plants over the next decade to supply electricity and steam to the processes.  

1980 - First large wind farm was built at Altamont Pass, California - bad design, too many perches for birds, developers discover the wind in California is weak at only 26 percent capacity factor.

1981 - NASA scientists develop Viterna Method for wind blade calculations

1988 10 MW lead-acid battery installed in Chino, California

1990s - faster computers allow better calculations.  Wind blade calculations are long and complicated, so that fast computers are required to give optimal solutions. 

1992  -  President George H.W. Bush signed The Energy Policy Act, which authorizes a production tax credit of 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour of wind-power-generated electricity and re-establishes a focus on renewable energy use.  The PTC increases over time with inflation.  Presently is at 2.3 cents per kWh. 

1993  DoE builds the National Wind Technology Center to test wind systems

1996  5 MW lead-acid battery for grid-scale storage installed at Vernon, California

2008  The U.S. Department of Energy publishes their 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report

2008  US installed wind capacity reaches 25.4 GW. 

2008  US wind energy production exceeded 1 percent of all electricity for the first time.  Wind was 1.34 percent of all electricity sold in the US that year.   Wind output jumped 62 percent over the previous year. 

2011  The U.S. Department of Energy releases the National Offshore Wind Strategy in partnership with the Department of the Interior to reduce the cost of energy through technology development and reducing deployment timelines. In the following year, three offshore wind demonstration projects are chosen as a part of this $168 million initiative.

2012  US installed capacity reaches 60 GW.  Annual electricity produced was barely under 3 percent (2.93) of all US electricity sold.  The wind output had more than doubled in just 4 years.   The annual growth rate was astounding, at 27 percent per year.    Much of the new capacity is in the fabulous wind in the Great Plains region of the US, from Canada to Texas and Colorado to Missouri. 

2013 First Grid-Connected Offshore Wind Turbine in the U.S., a small, 20 kW unit offshore Maine, with Dept of Energy funding.  A storage battery on California's Santa Catalina Island was installed, at 1 MW and 7 hours capacity.   (This was to allow the diesel generators to run constantly rather than cycle on and off, which created more air pollution). 

2014  8 MW, 4 hours,  grid-scale battery for wind energy storage installed at Tehachapi, California

2015 The Wind Vision Report is released showing that 35% wind energy is possible by 
2050.  Installed capacity reaches nearly 74 GW, while electricity produced was 4.68 percent of the total.  Grid-scale batteries for storing electricity are installed in California. 

2015 Wind technology improved dramatically, with onshore projects in the Great Plains region profitable with only 4.3 cents per kWh (total) sold.  Installation costs fell to $1600 per kW nameplate capacity.  Annual capacity factors in the best locations exceed 40 percent.  

2016 First grid-scale offshore wind farm starts operation offshore Rhode Island, the Block Island project with 30 MW using 5 turbines of 6 MW each.  Production tax credit is reduced over several years and ends completely in 5 years. 

2016  Annual electricity produced by wind comprised 6.53 percent of all US electricity sold in 2016.

2017 Total installed capacity reaches 84,000 GW.   In early 2017 (April), wind energy exceeded 8 percent (8.65) of all US electricity sold on a monthly basis.  EIA numbers show that wind energy output was as much as hydroelectric power output. 

2017  Oklahoma announces approval and financing for a 2,000 MW wind energy farm in the panhandle region, having 800 turbines at 2.5 MW each.  

2017  70 MW total of grid-scale batteries, all 10 MW or larger, operating in Southern California.  The two largest are 30 MW each.  

2017 Contracts are signed for a 100 MW, 85 MW and a 50 MW battery systems, for Long Beach and Los Angeles, respectively. Storage is 4 hours for the 100 MW battery. 

2017  August, US Dept of Energy states: " . . . 28 (offshore wind) projects, totaling 23,735 megawatts (MW) of potential installed capacity, are now in the works. Near-term activity is concentrated in the North Atlantic, but other projects are in various stages of development across the country, including the Great Lakes, the West Coast, and Hawaii."   see link

2017 September, offshore Block Island Wind Project easily withstands tropical-storm force winds as Hurricane José passes nearby. 



Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved


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