There are nearly 1,400 gigawatts (GW) of economic wind power capacity in the United States, an amount equal to more than half of the nation’s current annual electricity consumption, according to a Department of Energy’s (DOE) study.
The results of the Distributed Wind Energy Futures Study, which was conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), were detailed in two snapshots in time, 2022 and 2035, and done within the context of the Biden administration’s established targets of 100 percent carbon dioxide free electricity supply by 2035 and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economywide by 2050.
In the 2022 scenario, the economic potential for behind-the-meter wind installations is 919 GW, compared with 474 GW for front-of-the-meter installations.
However, “the economics of distributed wind are highly sensitive to policies, especially those that impact project-level costs,” the study said. As an example, the authors said,
“If current tax credits and net-metering policies expire as scheduled, economic potential is estimated to drop between 2022 and 2035. However, if current tax credits and policies are extended and strategically expanded, economic potential increases by more than 80% for behind-the-meter applications and by a factor of nearly nine for front-of-the-meter application.”
With future policy support and “more relaxed siting conditions,” the economic potential of front-of-the-meter installations could increase to more than 4,000 GW and 1,700 GW for behind-the-meter installations in an “optimistic 2035 scenario,” NREL said.
There are currently about 1.1 GW of distributed wind capacity in the United States.
The study identified the Midwest and the Heartland regions as having the largest potential for behind-the-meter wind power because of a combination of high wind speeds and sufficiently high retail electricity rates. Six states in those regions – Texas, Minnesota, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Indiana – have a combined wind power potential of 500 GW, the study said.
The Midwest and Heartland regions also have strong potential for front-of-the-meter wind power, estimated at over 300 GW in the top six states: Oklahoma, Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, Iowa, and South Dakota.
Agricultural lands make up 70 percent of the total 2022 economic potential for behind-the-meter wind power and 97 percent of the total 2022 economic potential for front-of-the-meter wind power potential.
In addition, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Kentucky each have more than 900 megawatts (MW) of behind-the-meter economic wind power potential in 2022 on commercial and industrial lands, the study said.
Behind-the-meter economic wind power potential in 2022 on residential lands is greatest in New York, Minnesota, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, the study found.
In general, California and states in the Northeast have less profitable distributed wind power potential, except in certain locations where there are significant wind resources and higher retail electricity rates, NREL said.