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Obama administration plays up wind’s potential for Southeast

The Obama administration used a major wind energy conference in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday to tout the findings of a new report that shows the potential for wind-generated electricity to expand from the middle of the country to regions of the Southeast and beyond.

The report could affect the president’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by doubling the number of renewable energy resources while also driving new regulations to cut emissions at fossil-fuel power plants.

Greenhouse gas emissions are what many scientists say are the cause of manmade global warming and climate change.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced the report’s findings at Windpower 2015, which the industry describes as the largest gathering of the wind energy industry in the Western Hemisphere.

The report, Enabling Wind Power Nationwide, demonstrates that taller, more advanced wind turbines are enabling states to tap wind where in the past they were unable to with conventional technologies.

“By producing the next generation of larger and more efficient wind turbines, we can create thousands of new jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as we fully unlock wind power as a critical national resource,” Moniz said.

The report is a follow-up to an Energy Department study released in March that projects that wind energy can supply 35 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2050. Energy currently produced by wind turbines provides 4.5 percent of the nation’s electricity demand.

“Wind generation has more than tripled in the United States in just six years, exceeding 4.5 percent of total generation, and we are focused on expanding its clean power potential to every state in the country,” Moniz said.

The American Wind Energy Association, the industry’s national trade group, said that advancements in turbine technology, primarily increasing the height of wind towers from 80 meters to 100 meters and higher, opens up an additional one-fifth of the nation’s land area for constructing wind farms.

The wind group says that would have the effect of “lighting up many parts of the country, especially the Southeast.”

The wind industry wants the centerpiece of the president’s climate plan, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, to account for wind as a robust resource that states can use to comply with the plan’s emission reduction rules.

The rules establish state-specific emission reduction targets based on a state’s ability to tap renewable energy and energy efficiency, natural gas and more efficient coal plants.

“Wind is already a cost-effective way to help many states comply with the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan,” said Susan Reilly, president of Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc. “The wind industry has a strong track record on innovation to reduce costs to customers. Taller towers could improve these economics further and lead to increased deployment of wind assets so it’s very encouraging to see potential barriers to such innovation be addressed with focus.”