Not long ago, most of the windy places in the U.S. were in the Great Plains. Now, a much larger part of the country has been found to have turbine-worthy wind. What happened?
“What happened is the development of wind maps at 80 and 100 m,” says AWEA’s Deputy Director for Community Wind Larry Flowers. “We originally mapped the U.S. at 50 m because that was the average height of wind turbines in 2000. The wind industry always knew stronger and steadier winds were a bit higher. So turbine hub heights increased from 50 to 80-m and now occasionally to 100 m. Wind resources look much better at 100 m.” Ohio is one of the states where the wind significantly changes at 80 m and up.
Flowers suggests looking at a windpoweringamerica.gov and click on the U.S. wind map, and then your state. “You will see the 80-m wind map and other charts of wind available at different capacity factor. At a 30% capacity factor, a reasonable figure, tens of thousands of MW of wind are available. You did not have that at 50 m where the wind is Class 2 in many places.” There is just one wind farm in Ohio, but several more are planned along with a 20 MW farm in Lake Erie. Wind is looking good enough for Invenergy to recently announce a 100-MW project approved and 100s of MW in the pipeline.
The only fly in the ointment now for many states is the issue of sufficient transmission lines. “There is a 765-kV transmission network in Ohio that will be useful in the short term, but for the long term the problem is the need for additional transmission.
“What’s more, people should understand that whenever you put in a new generation source, it will be more costly than the old generators. It does not matter if its wind, solar, coal, or nuclear, new generation costs more because the old equipment has been depreciated. So there will be rate increases, but for the most part, states with Renewable Portfolio Standards have thus far not substantially raised rates. And that has been documented by Lawrence Berkley Laboratory,” says Flowers.
More positive news is that about 89% of the population supports wind power. “Even states that have a coal industry, such as Colorado, and states such as Texas that depend heavily on natural gas, have strong public and policy support for wind. Once people are educated on the energy options, pros and cons, wind comes out as the top one or two. That was surprising to officials in Nebraska and Texas because their areas have been dominated by fossil energy sources.”
Economic development is the tag line for a lot of conferences today because of the economy and the emphasis on jobs and the recovery. “We have completed an economic-development analysis for every windy state in the country. For example, consider the multiplier effects for a 1,000-MW wind farm and we’re talking about $1.3 billion economic development over the 20 year project life, primarily in rural economies. That means construction jobs, operating jobs, taxes, and land lease payments, not to mention manufacturing jobs. States with a strong RPS such as Iowa, Texas, and Pennsylvania, and those places with a combination of existing manufacturing capacity are doing better than others. Manufacturers always say that having a home market is important. Shipping large components long distances comes with high cost, so they want to have a home market they can supply as well.”
“When we started with Wind Powering America in 2000, we realized the economic development piece was one that needed addressing. We saw wind projects go up and the resulting revitalization of local communities. So we commissioned a professional economist to develop a short-hand method for evaluating wind energy’s economic development impacts, both to the host county and the state. The analysis is called JEDI, for Jobs and Economic Development Impacts. We tested the model by applying it to several different scenarios to make sure it comes up with real world numbers. It does, so we applied the model to every windy state in the country.”
JEDI uses a wind project’s key inputs of capital cost, construction jobs, operating jobs, taxes paid, and lease payments and based on well-established county economic multipliers, generates output of direct, indirect, and induced wages and economic activity over the 20 year life of the project. The JEDI model and documentation is downloadable at no cost at windpoweringamerica.gov.