Blowin’ in the Wind — Ohio’s big time energy opportunity

Ohio’s wind energy potential actually exceeds the electricity demand of the entire state of Ohio

Says Dennis Elliott of the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Laboratory (NREL) as reported in a Beacon Journal article.

Ohio is proving the value of applying new research methods. Previously, Ohio was thought to have only marginal wind power conditions. But, NREL is now “revisiting some states like Ohio that earlier had been dismissed for having insufficient winds.”

Now the total resources might exaggerate the real near term opportunity.  

Ohio could very easily support wind farms that could generate 20 percent of the state’s electricity.

Okay, this actually is a serious understatement as this study only looked at land-based power.  You want to get a feel for the potential for northern Ohio from Lake Effects Wind, check out A Great Potential: The Great Lakes as a Regional Renewable Energy Source (warning: pdf).  NREL is currently studying the Great Lake opportunities, with a study due in about six months. Heads up — basically all experts will agree that the lake winds are likely to be far better than the shore options.

To get a feel for what it means to be discussing lake and water effects wind versus land, check out this New York wind map (pdf). Check all that top quality wind in the Great Lakes and off Long Island. When are the wind turbines going up off Long Island, I ask you?

According to the American Wind Energy Association, Ohio has just 7 … just 7!!! … megawatts of installed wind energy capacity out of the 11,603 MW nationwide as of 31 December 2006.

This is from Lou Grinzo at Cost of Energy (note: bumped into this after starting this diary — he/I cover much of the same ground):

This change in site assessments has been ongoing for some time. It seems hard to believe that it took us so long to figure out that there’s a lot more wind 50 or 100 meters up in the air than there is near the ground, but at least we have that mystery of the universe solved and can put the information to work.

And in particular, I think that the Great Lakes will be the site of a considerable amount of wind development. I live near the south shore of Lake Ontario, and it’s amazing how windy it is on the lake front even on days when just a couple of miles inland the air is calm.

The full-NREL report is available via Environment Ohio.  

“These maps demonstrate that a new, more energy independent future could be in store for Ohio,” stated Amy Gomberg, the Environmental Advocate with Environment Ohio. “Even if we only tap into a small portion of our wind potential we could generate at least 10-20% of Ohio’s electricity from wind, powering millions of Ohio homes and realizing significant environmental and economic benefits.”

From Dennis Elliott, NREL’s statement:

Using the projected energy sales estimates for 2020, if Ohio were to take advantage of only 20% the state’s windy land areas the state could install about 13,200 MW of wind capacity

In other words, Ohio could have more wind energy installed by 2020 than the entire United States does today.

Let us remember that wind and other renewable energy projects have many benefits … improving economies one of them.  As per Environment Ohio:

“Wind energy is an untapped economic boon for Ohio.  Ohioans spend approximately $24 billion annually on imported energy, but capturing Ohio’s wind energy could keep those dollars flowing within our own local communities,” stated Richard Stuebi, BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation.   “Furthermore, independent studies have estimated that tens of thousands of jobs could be created in Ohio to manufacture wind-related equipment, although this employment potential is much more likely to be realized if there’s also a substantial local market in Ohio for installing wind turbines.  The new NREL wind maps show that a very large potential for Ohio-based wind energy does in fact exist, and this will encourage both wind developers and manufacturers to explore Ohio more vigorously.”

While we want to take actions to Energize America — and there is much that can be done now — one thing this highlights is the importnace of reinvigorating multiple levels of our research programs related to energy. The United States (and the world) need ever-improving wind maps to facilitate better exploitation of wind patterns for energy production.  By moving testing to the height of new wind turbines (100+ meters), NREL discovered that Ohio had tremendous wind resources.  

Wind power is growing at a 25+% rate in the United States, year-in, year-out.  Instituting Renewable Portfolio Standards, maintaining the Production Tax Credit, and investing in wind turbine facilities will all help keep this going. So will funding programs like this NREL research effort to know as much as possible, as soon as possible, about where wind makes the most sense.  And, this new information suggests that total US wind resource estimates (unlike oil reserves) likely have nowhere to go but up. That is, to put it simply, good news for those of us hoping for a sustainable and prosperous energy future.

In any event, the power for tomorrow’s Ohioans is, literally, Blowin’ in the Wind …

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