Certainly some risk exists with wind turbines; however, the risk from wind farms appears to be less than being struck by lightning and certainly less dangerous than fossil fuels. Still, wind developers have a responsibility to ensure projects are built to meet or exceed safety standards and to benefit the local communities.
This year may be the biggest year for wind energy in the South. A number of factors are working together to create a massive market for wind energy all across the country. Some of the important factors include: technology has significantly improved, utilities are becoming more familiar with integrating wind energy, key federal tax incentives have been renewed and utilities are beginning to hedge against risks associated with fossil fuels.
NREL developed the JEDI model to enable stakeholders and decision makers an easy way to ground-truth jobs and economic development potential associated with many sources of new generation construction and operation. The JEDI model is available for for wind energy, biofuels, solar energy, natural gas power plants, coal-fired power plants, hydroelectric dams, geothermal, petroleum power plants and transmission line construction. Construction impacts, cost estimates and potential tax revenue are all calculated based off of recent real-world examples. Users can tailor inputs of a proposed project by changing the project megawatt size, location and by other variables.
Late in the evening on February 18th, wind energy provided more energy to the Southwest Power Pool electric grid than coal, natural gas or nuclear power. At roughly 11PM, wind power generated nearly 40% of all the electricity in the SPP region, which includes Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and portions of New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. Meanwhile, the region received the remainder of its electricity from coal (37%), natural gas (11%), nuclear (10%) and hydro power (2%). That’s right: renewable energy provided more energy than either fossil fuels or nuclear reactors.
Conservatives strongly support clean energy. The strongest reasons why conservatives support clean energy include less pollution, more innovation and greater independence. “Voters, including Conservative Republicans, think clean energy keeps us healthier, safer, and more prosperous,” says the ClearPath results headline. When asked if “we should accelerate the growth of clean energy so that America can have cleaner, healthier air and less pollution at home,” some 91% of voters supported the statement.
A team of experts in the United Kingdom evaluated the risk of a wind turbine accident. Because actual, real-world wind turbine accidents are extremely rare events (once every 10,000 years per turbine per year), the experts ran millions of simulations of virtually all the possible ways a wind turbine blade can become detached and how far blade pieces could travel. The experts for the United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive summed up their research like this: “The risk of fatality from wind turbines (at 2 hub heights or greater from the turbine) is low in comparison to other societal risks. It is roughly equivalent to the risk of fatality from taking two aircraft flights per annum.” The experts also noted you’re also more likely to die by taking four fairground rides per year than from a wind turbine blade/fragment.
The favorable environmental assessment helps pave the way for up to 4,000 megawatts of wind power to be delivered into the south. That amount of wind power could generate as much electricity consumed by nearly 1.5 million southern homes and would more than double the amount of wind power purchased in the region. Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, the Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are already purchasing over 3,000 megawatts of wind power, with utilities planning to purchase gigawatts more.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has released its 2014 Wind Technologies Market Report. This annual report highlights important achievements for the wind industry. Wind power purchase agreement prices have hit record lows. That’s good news for the South, where wind energy is beginning to make inroads. The National Renewable Energy Lab previously found that new innovative turbines, with taller towers and longer blades, open up billions of dollars worth of wind energy opportunity in the South. Listed below are a few highlights from LBNL’s most recent report.
Wind energy prices have dropped substantially over the past five years and wind power prices are now regularly in the $0.02-$0.035 per kilowatt hour range ($20-$35/MWh). As turbines improve performance and manufacturers reduce costs, utilities are beginning to naturally and voluntarily prefer wind power as an energy resource. Researchers and manufacturers are hard at work to ensure wind turbine performance and costs continue to drop in the near future. Listed below are just a few innovations the wind industry is testing and preparing for primetime.
For utility companies, grid operators and other stakeholders interested in wind energy integration, collecting large quantities of high quality data on wind energy resources is vitally important. However, collecting such data has previously been limited by time constraints, budget constraints, or technical expertise. The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and Vaisala By 3Tier recently published the Wind Integration National Dataset (WIND) Toolkit. Peer-reviewed, and published in the scientific journal Applied Energy, the newly released WIND Toolkit by NREL is the largest, publicly available wind energy dataset, ever. The WIND Toolkit is user-friendly way for anyone to quickly evaluate the viability of utility-scale wind energy resources, and download the data necessary for wind energy grid integration analysis.