Management of Engineering and Technology
Wind power -- United States, Wind power industry -- United States, Renewable energy sources -- Forecasting, Energy policy
As nations continue to draw on the global oil supply and other natural resources, it grows clear that the world is in need of indefinitely sustainable forms of energy. Over time, great investment has been made in the research and implementation of what can be termed as “renewable” sources of energy including solar, hydro, geothermal, and wind energy. This project, “Wind Energy: How Much US Electricity will be Supplied by Wind?” seeks to determine what the future of wind energy production will look like in the US.
The US Department of Energy released a report in 2008 titled, “20% Wind Energy by 2030” in which it concludes that it is possible for wind energy to account for 20% of the US electricity supply by the year 2030. Acknowledging the real possibility of this scenario, the research and analysis of “Wind Energy: How Much US Electricity will be Supplied by Wind?” seeks to determine the likelihood of this scenario. However, given the super-hypothetical nature of the DOE report and the inherent uncertainty of a 20 year forecast, this project also seeks to determine the likelihood of wind energy accounting for 5% of US electricity needs by the year 2020. Given wind energy’s 2009 contribution of 1.8% to US electricity needs, the 5% contribution by 2020 was determined as a necessary benchmark to further extrapolate the likelihood of reaching the 20% goal by 2030.
The research methodology for this project implemented the STEEP framework in which the Social, Technical, Environmental, Economic, and Political components of wind energy production are each independently studied. The research relied heavily on publications from the US Department of Energy and the US Energy Information Administration as well as several other government agencies and research establishments. Current trends coupled with anticipated advancements were used to determine of wind energy would likely reach either the 2020/5% or 2030/20% goals.
Although each component of the STEEP framework was studied independently, it was determined that each of the components is substantially interdependent on one another. Therefore, the future of the US wind energy industry is highly dependent on the continuing progress in each of the fields of study. Although each of the components presents a degree of uncertainty in extrapolating future prospects, it was determined that current trends present only modest and incremental advancements favorable to wind energy in the US. In conclusion, it was determined that wind energy is likely to contribute at least 5% of US electricity supply by the year 2020; however, it is unlikely that wind energy will expand substantially enough over the next two decades to be responsible for 20% of US electricity by the year 2030 as stated by the US Department of Energy. As is expected of any forecast, the research is by no means definitive and depends heavily on unknown future conditions.
Holliday, Michael; Kroonen, Rasha; Provenzola, Jeremy; Vosper, Andrew C.; Davis, Chris; and Alzamil, Ziyad, "Wind Energy: What are the U.S. Prospects?" (2010). Engineering and Technology Management Student Projects. 593.