Adding hundreds of small transmission line projects and grid upgrades to the 57 GW of large-scale transmission initiatives now being developed in the western U.S. (many of them in Texas) could have a significant impact on wind power development in less than six years, according to a new report from Emerging Energy Research. Add a national renewable portfolio standard and increased investment in transmission infrastructure, and the firm says wind power capacity could reach 187 GW by 2020.
As we reported earlier, T. Boone Pickens and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, much like President Obama and the American Wind Energy Association, want to see more money go into transmission initiatives. And a renewable portfolio standard, enacted in various forms in different states, is now on the table in Washington.
But these conditions are not guaranteed, which means installed capacity could hover closer to 140 GW a decade from now. “The inability of transmission build-out to keep pace with wind project development activity will increasingly constrain the growth of the U.S. wind power market in the near-term,” Emerging Energy’s senior wind analyst, Matthew Kaplan, said in a release today.
During the next three years, the research firm expects annual growth in U.S. wind capacity to “stall” at 8-9 GW. The fact that 9 GW of new installations on a yearly basis has come to look like a stall shows just how firmly wind has become a part of mainstream visions for a cleaned-up national energy portfolio — the U.S. increased its wind capacity by a record-breaking 50 percent last year with less than that, despite the stranglehold on credit markets in the last quarter.