300% rise in U.S. distributed wind possible by 2030 — study

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Article updated at 5:30 p.m. EDT.

Distributed wind power could increase 300 percent by 2030 in the United States under “business as usual” economics, according to a report released today by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The assessment, the first of its kind from NREL, doesn’t project what is likely to happen with distributed wind but what is technically and economically possible.

If economics aren’t considered, distributed wind turbines under 1 megawatt could technically supply all the electricity in the United States, according to the lab. That estimate considers electricity demand and siting restrictions.

Distributed wind refers to small turbines installed “behind the meter” at homes and businesses.

“While utility-scale wind capacity has grown more than six-fold over the past decade … growth in distributed wind has been more modest and currently supplies about 1 GW of U.S. capacity,” the Department of Energy said in a statement.

Under a scenario of business-as-usual economic and “consumer adoption” trends for small wind, the resource could reach 1.5 gigawatt of capacity by 2030, in theory. A reduction in technology costs could more than double that, NREL said in the report.

The analysis doesn’t consider potential competition from other renewable sources like solar, and assumes existing federal tax incentives and state renewable standards continue.

Advocates for distributed wind, along with other alternative energy sources like geothermal and fuel cells, have been pressing Congress for tax extensions. This month, small wind companies sent a letter to congressional leaders saying a tax fix was essential to avoid “serious market disruption.”

“This report is timely because the Congress has the opportunity over the next few weeks to fix an omission in last year’s spending bill that provided a five-year extension of solar tax credits but did not do the same for small wind,” said Mike Bergey, president of the Distributed Wind Energy Association, in a statement.