Taller, more efficient wind turbines could come to all 50 states
The newest generation of wind turbines, currently under development by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in collaboration with industry partners and research labs, could mean that wind energy is coming to all 50 states. According to the DOE’s May report, technological advancements featuring taller towers and longer blades will develop turbines able to generate more power more effectively. The new technology may eventually lead to expanded power production in the Southeast and other parts of the country where slower and more inconsistent wind speeds have made it difficult to develop utility-scale projects. Presently, wind energy is being used in 39 states, making it responsible for nearly 5 percent of U.S. total electricity generation. However, the DOE’s report states that all 50 states may soon be capable of producing wind power, allowing the U.S. to substantially increase its dependence on wind energy.
While the U.S. currently uses 260-foot-tall turbines, many European nations are already implementing wind turbines that are approximately 360 feet high. If the U.S. adopted the European approach, that could result in an estimated 54 percent increase in potentially viable wind energy sites nationwide. Using 460-foot-tall turbines, the number of potential project sites could increase by about 67 percent.
According to a March report, the U.S. is paced to pull 35 percent of its electricity from wind power by the year 2050. The DOE’s hope is to increase reliance on wind energy to 10 percent by 2020 and 20 percent by 2030. However, there are challenges that come with implementing these taller turbines. Further research must be done to study the impact that taller turbines may have on air traffic, radars, and wildlife. From an insurance perspective, markets must be made comfortable with the risks associated with taller towers and longer blades. Siting, transportation and storage logistics should be considered. WGA’s Renewable Energy team can assist clients in implementing risk management strategies and negotiating the best terms and conditions for insuring the newest fleet of wind turbines.
About the Author
Molly Lovelette is an Assistant Vice President at WGA in the Property and Casualty Group, with a specialized focus in energy and construction policies in WGA’s Renewable Energy and Clean Tech Practice. She serves the day-to-day needs of numerous energy clients, including independent power producers, owner-operators and manufacturers in the wind, solar, landfill gas, waste-to-energy and fossil fuel industries.