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Community Developments Investments (Fall 2013)

U.S. Department of Energy Programs Support Wind Energy

Dry Lake Wind Power Project, in Navajo Country, Arizona, is the state’s utility-scale wind farm with 30 turbines. AWEA
Dry Lake Wind Power Project, in Navajo Country, Arizona, is the state’s first utility-scale wind farm with 30 turbines.

Kenneth Alston, Special Assistant for Finance, U.S. Department of Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through a wide portfolio of activities, aids the development and deployment of wind energy, and the results are taking hold: This clean energy technology has doubled its generating capacity in the United States over the past four years.

A Growing Market

Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing energy technologies in the nation. In 2012, wind energy was the number one source of new energy generation capacity installed in the United States, contributing more than 40 percent of all new generating capacity. Total installed wind capacity in the country has reached more than 60,000 megawatts—enough to power 15.2 million homes annually, more than the number of homes in the states of California and Washington combined.

At the end of 2012, nine states met more than 10 percent of their total electricity needs with wind power, 39 states had utility-scale1 wind projects, and 15 states had more than 1,000 megawatts of installed capacity wind power. Wind energy generates more than 3 percent of the nation’s electricity portfolio, and according to a 2008 DOE report, wind energy could power as much as 20 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030.

What We Do

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy oversees the DOE’s Wind Program. The program, which had a budget of more than $88 million in 2013, helps accelerate deployment of wind power technologies by improving turbine performance, driving down the levelized cost2 of energy, and reducing market barriers to wind energy deployment. The program works with national laboratories, industry, universities, and other federal agencies on both land-based and offshore wind power projects.

Other organizations within the DOE also play an important role in fostering wind energy development. The Loan Program Office has supported more than $1.7 billion in new wind project financing, while the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has issued funding awards for early-stage research and development in wind energy components, materials, and turbines.

Our Activities

The DOE’s wind energy activities focus on four areas:

  • Technology research and development: A crucial factor in the development, siting, and operation of a wind farm is the ability to assess and characterize available wind resources. More accurate prediction and measurement of wind speed and direction allow wind farms to supply clean, renewable power to businesses and homeowners at lower costs.

    The DOE provides funding to support the development of innovative wind energy technology through the Wind Program, the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, and ARPA-E. The agency works to lower the cost of wind energy through

    • research and development activities focused on innovative wind turbine components, systems, materials, and manufacturing,
    • partnering with the academic community, research institutions, and industry to improve wind turbine and wind plant designs, operation, and reliability;
    • facilitating the development of wind turbine systems in both land-based and offshore environments;
    • exploring cost-reduction opportunities across all types of wind power systems; and
    • developing and validating open-source design tools for evaluating new concepts and educating the next generation of wind turbine designers.
  • Wind turbine testing and certification: The DOE works with industry, universities, and national laboratories to develop aerodynamic, structural, and electrical test centers. These centers test wind farms, wind turbines, rotor blades, and drivetrains. The agency helps industry improve performance and safety by establishing standards for small wind turbine certification. To maintain the latest standards, the DOE participates in the development of national and international wind energy criteria.
  • Market acceleration and deployment: To support and encourage market growth, the DOE has issued loan guarantees to multiple utility-scale wind projects, including Record Hill Wind in Roxbury, ME. At the same time, the DOE partners with environmental groups and agencies to understand the impact of wind installations on bird, bat, and insect species and their habitats, and takes necessary and appropriate mitigation actions. In addition, the agency assists in the development of guidelines for proper wind plant siting and permitting. The agency also investigates and mitigates the potential auditory, visual, radar, and competitive-use impacts of wind energy on society. Finally, the agency provides independent cost analyses of energy, economic assessments, and market information publications.
  • Wind resource assessment and grid integration: The DOE assesses domestic wind energy resources for both land-based and offshore wind energy systems. Assessment data can help improve the global understanding of wind farm design conditions and complex aerodynamics. The data also can lead to better understanding of critical wind integration challenges related to electricity supply and demand, wind forecasting, and wind speed variability. The agency is continually developing solutions and best practices for wind energy grid integration.

Through these programs and projects, the DOE will continue to support the growth of the nation’s wind industry and the promotion of a clean-energy economy. 

For more information, visit www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/ or contact Kenneth Alston at (202) 586-5000 or kenneth.alston@hq.doe.gov.

Community Developments Investments is produced by the OCC’s Community Affairs Department. Articles by non-OCC authors represent their own views and not necessarily the OCC’s.

​1The term “utility-scale” applies to large turbine installations requiring transmission system interconnection.

​2Levelized cost is often cited as a convenient summary measure of the overall competitiveness of different generating technologies. It represents the per-kilowatt-hour cost (in real dollars) of building and operating a generating plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle. Key inputs to calculating levelized costs include overnight capital costs, fuel costs, fixed and variable operations and maintenance costs, financing costs, and an assumed utilization rate for each plant type. “Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources in the Annual Energy Outlook 2013,” January 2013, http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf.