By James Noble
June 4, 2015
By 2050, over 100 million American homes will be powered by wind energy, according to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE).
Currently, wind energy produces about 5 percent of the annual U.S. electricity generation, enough to power 10 million homes. But wind energy’s potential to grow is grounded in two key assumptions: offshore wind farms playing a much larger role in generation and improved technology.
The first American offshore wind farm is coming online later in the summer of 2015 off the coast of Rhode Island in what will amount to a demonstration project testing the viability of offshore wind in the U.S.
Many coastal states are expected to produce energy from both offshore and onshore turbines. However, for some states, developing offshore power production will be crucial to growth as onshore power generation is unlikely due to breezes that are considered too calm.
Technological changes will be the catalyst behind increasing wind energy’s share of America’s energy mix. The DoE has concluded that turbine towers that stand 140 meters tall, almost double the average 80-meter towers that are installed today, could enable wind energy production in every state. Wind speeds tend to increase with altitude and simply making the towers taller and blades bigger can increase energy production up to 45 per cent.
In Canada, the total installed wind energy capacity is 9,700 MW, which generates enough electricity to meet the needs of over three million homes. Ontario, Quebec and Alberta are the top three producing provinces. Last year, Canadian investment in new wind energy projects topped $3.5 billion and another 1,500 MW of new wind energy capacity is expected to come online this year.
With technological improvements, the barriers to wide scale deployment of wind turbines are falling. With American companies and energy markets embracing wind, best practices and policies have a good chance of being transplanted north of the border.