Pollution-free Energy Today
We believe that we are on a path of technical and financial progress that will define a completely new market for wind power -- a market in which it will be commercially viable generation on the basis of fuel savings alone.
Dale Osborn, President, U.S. Windpower, Inc.
There are over 1,500 megawatts of privately owned wind generating capacity in operation in California alone, enough to meet the residential needs of about 1,000,000 people -- more that the population of San Francisco or Washington D.C. By the mid-1990's sales of wind-generated electricity are expected to double. California's wind power plants produce about 1.2 percent of Pacific Gas and Electric's estimated consumption and provides up to 8 percent of their load. Wind power plants in California save the energy equivalent of 4.4 million barrels of oil each year while producing no air pollution.
Today's modern wind turbines are increasingly reliable, and are available more than 95 percent of the time -- as compared to only 50-60 percent in the early 1980s. Costs have been reduced form almost 25 cents per kilowatt-hour in 1980 to a range of 7-9 cents per kilowatt-hour today, with near-term prospects to reach 4 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2000. New wind turbine blades, with airfoils designed at the National Renewable Energy Lab specifically for wind turbines are now on the market. Field tests show a 20 percent increase in energy capture over earlier blades.
DOE's windpower programs support applied research in the aerodynamic properties and structural dynamics of wind turbines. The research covers a broad spectrum of activities to increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of turbines and blade designs, and in the design of materials. Technical improvements form industry experience and the DOE Windpower program have played an important role in reducing the cost of wind-generated electricity. DOE and industry engineers have worked together to design new airfoils that capture 15-25 percent more energy form the wind than earlier commercial designs, and the industry has greatly improved wind turbine designs and reduced mechanical failures caused by large aerodynamic loads. DOE's Windpower program is also helping to develop markets for wind energy through assessments of U.S. wind resources.