The US State Department’s International Information programme says that wind power is the fastest-growing new source of electricity worldwide. “The industry is growing at 20 to 30% annually worldwide,” said Charles McGowin, wind-power technical leader at the Electric Power Research Institute, adding, “It’s become the most economical renewable energy resource as a result of the large growth in the market.”
This statement is backed by comments from Robert Thresher, director of the US Department of Energy National Wind Technology Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado. Thresher says, “In the 1980s, wind cost about ¢40/kWh, now the cost is between ¢4/kWh and ¢6/kWh, so we’ve reduced the cost of wind by an order of magnitude in the past two decades.”
Testifying before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources recently, Thresher said that developing offshore wind energy technologies potentially could provide up to 70,000 MW of power to the grid by 2025. However, he added, “For the wind turbine to be cost effective it must be cheaper than the price of fuel alone. In the US, hydropower is very cheap – ¢3 – ¢4/kWh. Coal is probably on the order of ¢2 – ¢3/kWh. Natural gas is more like ¢5 – ¢6 cents/kWh, so right now wind is only competitive with natural gas at today’s natural gas prices.”
At the National Wind Technology Center the goal is to perfect wind turbines and bring the cost of wind power down to ¢3/kWh over the next 10 years for moderate wind sites.