DOE: 29 million MW-miles of transmission required to achieve 35% wind by 2050

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in its latest report on wind energy has estimated that meeting a scenario of providing 35% of electricity demand in the United States from wind energy by 2050 will require the installation of 29 million MW-miles of transmission.

In the report, “Wind Vision: A new era for wind power in the United States,” DOE outlined a path to achieving 10% wind by 2020, 20% by 2030, and 35% by 2050.

“Realizing these levels of deployment … would depend upon both immediate and long-term actions – principally identi­fying continued wind cost reductions, adding needed transmission capacity, and supporting and enhancing siting and permitting activities – to complement any federal, state, tribal and local policies that may be enacted,” DOE said.

Meeting a scenario of 20% wind by 2030 will require incremental installation of 10 million MW-miles of transmission capacity, DOE said. DOE also said that, through 2020, the incremental installation of 350 circuit miles per year is needed. In addition, 890 circuit miles per year are needed from 2012 to 2030, and 1,050 circuit miles per year are needed from 2031 to 2050.

For the report, estimated circuit miles assume a single-circuit 345-kV transmission line with a nominal carrying capacity of 900 MW. DOE said that projected installation requirements in the report are comparable with an average of 870 circuit miles added annually in the United States since 1991.

DOE’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office led the collaborative analysis for the report with four objectives:

  • Documentation of the current state of wind power in the United States and identification of key tech­nological accomplishments and societal benefits over the decade leading up to 2014
  • Exploration of the potential pathways for wind power to contribute to the future electricity needs of the nation, including objectives such as reduced carbon emissions, improved air quality and reduced water use
  • Quantification of costs, benefits and other effects associated with continued deployment and growth of U.S. wind power
  • Identification of actions and future achievements that could support continued growth in the use and application of wind-generated electricity

DOE said that the updated report is intended to inform a broad set of stakeholders without recommending specific policy actions.

Clean Line’s Skelly: Report shows wind power’s ‘phenomenal potential’

Michael Skelly, founder and president of Clean Line Energy Partners, told TransmissionHub on March 13 that the Wind Vision report clearly demonstrates the “phenomenal potential” of wind power to provide affordable, clean electricity for customers throughout the United States.

Skelly was among the 250 experts from industry, electric power system operators, environmental stewardship organizations, state and federal governmental agen­cies, research institutions and laboratories, and siting and permitting stakeholder groups that collaborated with DOE on the report.

“The reason that the Wind Vision report is so important is that, if we can articulate the benefits of a big wind build out, and people understand the transmission necessary for that, then we can get the right policies in place to achieve it,” Skelly said. “We think some of the policies are already in place to support greater development; what we need more of is consensus and leadership, and the Wind Vision does a great job of laying out the path in order to get people behind not only future policies but the policies that are already in place.”

Skelly said that, as the report noted, building high-capacity transmission infrastructure is critical to achieving the report’s vision, adding that the United States has not sited and built a new, interstate HVDC project since 1986.

Clean Line Energy is developing four HVDC transmission projects that will carry more than 10 Hoover Dams worth of clean electricity from the Great Plains to population centers in the eastern and western United States, according to Skelly. Those projects are Centennial West Clean Line, Grain Belt Express Clean Line, Plains and Eastern Clean Line and Rock Island Clean Line.

Skelly said that he anticipates that the development, permitting and construction process for each of the four lines will take 10 years. He expects that the Grain Belt and Plains and Eastern projects will be the first two of the projects to come online.

The 900-mile, 600-kV Centennial West Clean Line project is scheduled to be completed by 2020, according to the project website. Clean Line Energy submitted an application for right of way across federal lands in 2011, and the Bureau of Land Management is working to prepare a draft environmental impact statement for the $2.5bn project.

Clean Line Energy’s 750-mile, 600-kV Grain Belt Express Clean Line project is scheduled to begin delivering electricity by 2019, according to the project website. The company has received regulatory approvals in Kansas and Indian for the $2.2bn project, and the Missouri Public Service Commission is currently reviewing the company’s application for the Missouri portion of the line.

The 700-mile, 600-kV Plains and Eastern Clean Line project is scheduled to begin delivering electricity by 2018, according to the project website. Clean Line Energy in 2011 received approval from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to conduct business as a utility in Oklahoma, and the Tennessee Regulatory Authority on Jan. 12 approved the company’s application for the $2bn project.

Clean Line Energy’s 500-mile, 600-kV Rock Island Clean Line project is scheduled to be completed in 2018, according to the project website. The company last November received approval from the Illinois Commerce Commission for the $1.8bn project and filed a petition with the Iowa Utilities Board for a transmission franchise.

Study scenarios

The Wind Vision analysis modeled three core scenar­ios in order to understand the sensitivities in wind energy deployment to various external drivers and, subsequently, to understand the likely economic and environmental effects of those drivers on the scenar­ios. Those scenarios are a baseline scenario, with U.S. wind capacity held constant at 2013 levels of 61 GW; a busi­ness-as-usual scenario; and a study scenario.

In the report, the business-as-usual scenario was used to evaluate the industry’s current and future domestic economic competitiveness based on central expectations of future fossil fuel and renewable costs, energy demand, scheduled existing fleet retirements, and federal and state policies enacted as of January 2014.

The study scenario starts with current manufac­turing capacity, which is estimated at between 8 GW and 10 GW of nacelle assembly and other large turbine components within the U.S., and applies central projections for variables, such as wind power costs, fossil fuel costs and energy demand, in order to arrive at a credible projected pathway that would maintain the existing industry. The report compared the resulting study scenario of 10% by 2020, 20% by 2030, and 35% by 2050 against the baseline scenario to estimate costs and benefits associated with potential future wind deployment.

Based on that analysis, the report determined that, with continued investments in technology innovation, coupled with a transmission system that can provide access to high resource sites and facilitate grid integration reliably and cost-effectively, the study scenario is an “ambi­tious yet viable deployment scenario.” In addition, the analysis determined that the U.S. wind supply chain has capacity to support study scenario wind deploy­ment levels, with cumulative installations of 113 GW of generating capacity by 2020, 224 GW by 2030, and 404 GW by 2050, building from 61 GW installed as of the end of 2013.

Progress report

The Wind Vision report updates and expands DOE’s 2008 report, “20% Wind Energy by 2030.” In the 2008 report, DOE determined that the United States power system could support a 20% wind penetration scenario with an increase in electric sector expenditures of 2% from 2008 to 2030, relative to a future with no new wind. The report also identified key activities to be addressed, including expanding transmission infrastructure, reducing the cost of wind power, integrating wind reliably into the bulk power system, and addressing potential concerns related to siting and permitting of wind plants.

DOE said that, since the release of the 2008 report, wind power’s installed capacity has increased by a factor of three. As of 2013, annual installations have surpassed the initial levels envisioned in the 20% scenario and progress has been made across the challenges that were identified. In addition, DOE said that, from 2008 to 2013, wind power installations expanded in geographic deployment and cumulative capacity, with installed capacity in 39 states by the end of 2013.

According to the Wind Vision report, wind has grown to become a dependable generation option over the last decade. Iowa and South Dakota exceeded 25% of in-state generation from wind resources in 2013, and seven other states operated with greater than 12% of their annual electricity from wind. DOE said that improved wind forecasting, wind plant controls, and expanding the geographical area for reserve sharing and demand response have all contributed to increased power system flexibility.

Road map

As part of the Wind Vision report, DOE provided a road map that outlines nine core action areas that could help remove hurdles to wind power deployment, while boosting U.S. manufacturing. The action areas are:

  • Wind power resources and site characterization
  • Wind plant technology advancement
  • Supply chain, manufacturing and logistics
  • Wind power performance, reliability and safety
  • Wind electricity delivery and integration
  • Wind siting and permitting
  • Collaboration, education and outreach
  • Workforce development
  • Policy analysis

As part of the roadmap, DOE encouraged stakeholders to collaborate on the development of “sufficient transmission” to deliver potentially remote generation to customers and provide for “economically efficient” operation of the bulk power system over broad geographic and electrical regions.

DOE said that, in order to realize the benefits detailed in the report, stakeholders and other interested parties need to take the next steps in refining, expanding, operationalizing and implementing the high-level roadmap actions through formal working groups or informal collaborations.