DOE Plans Effort to Mitigate Wind Turbine Market Barriers in FY2015

What are wind turbine market barriers? They are man made or natural occurrences that act to hinder or restrict growth of the wind turbine industry. The DOE has identified the most significant wind turbine market barriers, ref. 1, and has developed a plan to mitigate each barrier. One primary objective of the effort is to improve the permitting process for future wind turbine siting. Some examples of the barriers and the associated mitigation plans are summarized here.

1. Our wind turbines are killing Bald and Golden Eagles, prairie grouse and certain species of bats. The mitigation plan calls for developing wildlife mitigation monitoring and mitigation tools to facilitate environmentally responsible deployment of wind turbines. The effort will continue a focused multi-year effort to support the research necessary to ensure wind-wildlife interactions.

2. Wind turbines are causing radar and electromagnetic interference. The plan calls for developing wind turbine-radar interaction solutions, which seek to mitigate electromagnetic interference and enable industry to identify and employ mitigation technology and/or techniques.

3. Intermittent levels of electricity, produced by wind turbines, are reducing the reliability of our electric grid to operate. The DOE response: Wind power specific grid-interaction activities, will include the development of active power controls for turbines, next generation studies and analysis tools that expand understanding wind plant interactions with the power system.

4. Wind farms are producing less electricity than expected due to turbulent wind conditions. The DOE plans to develop an operational wind forecasting tool to provide support to the users to understand the confidence of the forecast as differing weather events carry higher or lower degrees of confidence with the forecast – as added information content in the forecast product. Analysis and improved forecasting will be continued to push forward the industry and increase the pace of deployment for land, offshore and distributed wind.

The DOE has requested $17.2 million for the market barrier mitigation effort in FY2015. The plans call for a multi-year effort that will require additional funding in the out years. Wind energy accounts for less than 5% of U.S. electricity supply today. The DOE plans to continue onshore and offshore wind turbine development from now to at least the year 2030. The DOE expects wind turbines to produce an estimated 20% of projected U.S. electricity demand in 2030, ref. 1. As the population of onshore and offshore wind turbines increase, the DOE is planning to correct operational issues that are currently being experienced by onshore wind turbines. We have no offshore wind turbines in operation. As a result the DOE can only estimate the potential challenges and issues that offshore wind turbines will pose.

The DOE has requested $115 million for wind energy in their FY2015 budget. The FY2015 request is about $27 million more than the FY2014 wind budget.The question for taxpayers is: Keeping in mind the problems identified above, are we spending our tax dollars wisely to continue wind turbine development? The total cost is not known and we have no guarantee of meeting the 20% wind energy goal by 2030.

Ref. !. “DOE FY2015 Congressional Budget Request”, DOE/CF-0098, Vol. 3, April 2014.