With the Clean Power Plan coming online, there’s no better time than now for renewable energy sources to be booming.
Wind power especially has seen some recent growth in both technology and reach.
The wind turbines themselves are getting more efficient, mostly due to size increases. The “hub heights,” or the height of the turbine rotor above the ground, have risen to a current average of 82.7 meters. Simply put: the higher the blades, the stronger the wind, and the more energy the turbine can produce.
Another advancement is the size of the blades themselves. The diameter of the turbine rotors has grown to average 99.4 meters as of 2014, more than double the average from 1998-1999. Larger rotors can produce “more power at lower wind speeds,” according to the Department of Energy.
Head of the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Jose Zayas has suggested that the combined larger rotors on higher turbines will help wind energy’s availability spread, with the current goal to reach a height of 140 meters to produce optimal amounts of electricity to be distributed all over the country.
The total installed capacity of wind energy in the U.S. is 66 gigawatts; this accounts for about 5% of the total electricity capacity. Zayas states that another 13 gigawatts are being constructed and will be online by next year.
This major growth in the wind energy sector means lower prices for the technology, and will eventually lead to a more widespread use of it. Already such major tech companies as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are commissioning wind farms to power their energy-hungry data centers.
In fact, the current commercial price of wind electricity has already reached 2.35 cents per kilowatt hour, “cheaper than the average price of wholesale electricity in many parts of the country,” according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researcher Ryan Wiser.
With the Clean Power Plan, the EPA expects this growth to continue as states decide how they want to reach the new emissions goals.
The current rate of innovation has already pushed wind over the DOE’s original estimation of 20% U.S. energy from wind power by 2030. The U.S. is already one of the world’s top wind energy producers, and is set to stay there.
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