Texas billionaire and wind energy developer Boone Pickens said at a hearing in Washington Tuesday that the U.S. is exporting about $700 billion a year to feed its oil addiction, as he joined the call from energy leaders to use nuclear, natural gas, coal, wind, biofuels and solar to wean the country off imported crude.
According to the Department of Energy, an investment of $60 billion in new transmission capacity is needed between now and 2030 to enable wind power to supply 20% of U.S. electricity.
The cost would amount to approximately $3 billion per year, a modest addition to the $8 billion that has been spent in recent years on transmission infrastructure, said Don Furman, senior vice president of business development for Iberdrola Renewables, the world’s largest wind energy worldwide.
“This is a small price to pay given the plethora of benefits that would result from reaching the target,” Furman said.
Advocates pointed out that wind energy would reduce greenhouse gasses, create jobs and help the U.S. reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
“We have the best wind in the world. It’s time we got serious about using it,” Pickens said at the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which held a hearing on building transmission lines to remote areas where giant wind turbines are being built.
Pickens said it’s possible for the country to meet 20% of its energy needs from non-fossil fuel sources sooner than the government target of 2030.
Pickens said natural gas could be used more frequently to fuel cars and trucks as promoted by his firm, Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE) . If less natural gas is available then to generate electricity, wind can take up the slack, Pickens said.
“The large, flat, open areas with adequate wind are usually located a long way from where electricity is needed,” Pickens said. “Since we can’t do much about where nature has put the wind, we have to do something about transmission to move the electricity to market.”
Kevin M. Kolevar, assistant secretary for electricity delivery and energy reliability for the U.S. Department of Energy, said by the year 2030, U.S. electricity consumption will increase by nearly 30% from the 2006 level.
“If you want to support clean energy, you have to support transmission expansion in appropriate areas,” Kolevar said.
Kolevar praised the Western Renewable Energy Zone (WREZ), a project launched by the Western Governor’s Association, to pave the way for more transmission lines.
The group held its first meeting late last month, with a goal of transmission line construction within the next three years.
“We believe the WREZ will ultimately serve as a model for any region interested in promoting the rapid and responsible expansion of clean and diversified energy,” said Richard Halvey, program director for energy, for the Western Governor’s Association.
Don Furman, senior vice president of business development for Iberdrola Renewables, the world’s largest wind energy worldwide, said the company is planning to invest $8 billion by 2010 in U.S. wind energy, assuming that Congress acts to further extend renewable energy tax credits.
By Steve Gelsi
17 June 2008
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