The US has the potential to profitably build almost 1,400 GW of distributed wind capacity, equivalent to more than half of its annual electricity consumption, according to a study by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory out last week.
For comparison, the country now has about 1.1 GW of distributed wind capacity.
Distributed wind can directly offset individual consumers’ power usage in behind-the-metre applications, or it could be connected to the distribution network to power communities. Systems can be between 1 kW and 10 MW large.
DOE said these installations can both help communities move to clean electricity and relieve the country’s constrained grid.
“By realising this potential, we can help local communities drive their own paths to a clean energy future and support national progress toward our climate goals,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman.
A combination of strong winds and high retail electricity rates makes states in the Midwest and Heartland regions most attractive for distributed turbines, while the Pacific and Northeast regions also present significant potential for “behind-the-metre” installations.
According to the Distributed Wind Energy Futures Study, policies are key to the economics of distributed wind. It says that if current tax credits and net-metering policies expire as scheduled, economic potential could decline between 2022 and 2035. If these measures were extended and expanded in a strategic manner, the potential could increase by more than 80% for behind-the-metre uses and by 800% for front-of-the-metre facilities.
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