Congressional Research Service report on wind power

Some (like me I must admit) may have missed this 49-page report on wind power from the Congressional Research Service, “Wind Power in the United States: Technology, Economic, and Policy Issues,” released in June 2008 and written by Jeffrey Logan and Stan Mark Kaplan, Specialists in Energy Policy of the Resources, Science, and Industry Division.

Here’s the table of contents:

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
The Rise of Wind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Benefits and Drawbacks of Wind Power  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Wind Resources and Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Wind Power Fundamentals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Physical Relationships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Wind Resources . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Offshore Wind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Wind Power Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Types of Wind Turbines . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Capacity Factor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Wind Research and Development Emphasis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

Wind Industry Composition and Trends . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Wind Turbine Manufacturers and Wind Plant Developers .. . . 18
International Comparisons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . 19

Wind Power Economics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . 22
Cost and Operating Characteristics of Wind Power . . . . .  . . . 23
Wind Operation and System Integration Issues . . . . . . . .  . . . 24
Levelized Cost Comparison . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

Wind Policy Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Siting and Permitting Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . 32
Transmission Constraints . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . 36
Federal Renewable Transmission Initiatives . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . 38
Renewable Production Tax Credit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . 39
PTC Eligibility: IOUs vs. IPPs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Specific PTC Legislative Options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . 40
Carbon Constraints and the PTC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Alternatives to the PTC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Renewable Portfolio Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
Federal RPS Debate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

Appendix. Financial Analysis Methodology and Assumptions . 44

The report, written for members and committees of Congress, concludes:

Wind power in the United States is growing rapidly. Although it currently supplies only about 1% of the country’s electricity needs, some states and regions have a much higher level of wind penetration. Furthermore, the amount of proposed new wind plants either under construction or waiting to be built is significant, and could soon make wind the largest source of new power supply at the national level. Continued expansion of wind power in the United States could be slowed by lack of transmission capacity and expiration of the federal renewable production tax credit. On the other hand, federal policy on climate change, expected by many in the 111th Congress [Ed. note: that would be the one commencing operation in January 2009], would likely put a value on carbon dioxide emissions and give wind power additional advantages compared to coal- and natural gas-based electricity. Congress will need to carefully consider the interactive nature of energy and climate legislation when crafting future policy.

As my son might say, “Go Congress.”

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