A friend recently sent me a link to the US Department of Energy’s Web site about wind power in the US. This site contains a number of new US wind resource maps, developed for DoE by AWS Truepower.
AWS Truepower is an example of the new direction of business development that renewable power is creating. AWS provides assessments and performance evaluation of both wind and solar resources to help investors and generating companies plan new generation development and assess the performance of existing facilities.
The 2010 assessments that AWS used in developing the DoE resource maps were based on detailed GIS studies as well as a decade of experience with land based wind generation in the US. These maps are a significant improvement over the earlier 2008 DoE “composite map” that was used before 2010 and which AEP used in their map for DoE to propagandize for the company’s ÜberGrid 765 kV plan.
Here is that map:
DoE titles this map a “composite” map, because it had no data for the whole the US based on a single assessment. You can see, in the upper left hand corner of the map a list of states with years in parentheses. These are the individual state assessments, and the years in which they were done, that make up the data illustrated on the map.
Here is essentially the same map, but updated by AWS Truepower in 2010 with uniform data at 80 meters (the general height of a wind turbine):
As you can see, the 2010 map is much more refined and there is data for the whole of the US, with no white space on the map. It is important to note that the assessment of offshore wind speeds, while still generally strong, has been toned down from the assessment in the earlier composite map. The offshore wind speeds are broken down much more specifically and some limited areas in western and midwestern states have wind speeds that rival some of the best offshore areas. Generally speaking, however, the best offshore areas are still far superior to most high wind land based areas. Not only is the new map more accurate, but its gradations of wind speeds are more smaller and thus more specific.
Does the new more refined wind resource map invalidate many of my earlier claims about the superiority of offshore wind power as an electricity resource in the US? No, for three reasons:
- While the contrast between onshore and offshore resources is not as stark as on the old map, there are still large offshore areas where wind speeds at 80 meters are higher than any onshore areas.
- The wind resource maps only show wind speed, they do not show duration or frequency of wind. In both duration and frequency, offshore wind is much more reliable and stronger as a generating resource than is land based wind.
- Prime offshore wind farm locations off both coasts and the Great Lakes are within 200 miles of 70 percent of the US population. The cost and dislocation from new transmission lines is thus much lower for offshore wind than it is from new land based development. Most of the best locations on existing transmission lines have already been taken by wind farms in high land-based wind locations in the US. Any extensive new land-based wind farms will require massive new transmission lines over long distances to reach US population centers.
Finally, we turn to the original purpose of The Map – to demonstrate how the push for a new ÜberGrid is not about serving new wind power development, but is designed to serve the interests of the current coal-burning regime. Here is the map developed by the Piedmont Environmental Council that takes AEP’s 765 kV overlay plan, which AEP claimed was designed to serve wind power, but in this case super-imposed over US coal resource areas:
There is nothing about this map that has changed since 2008, except maybe further proof of the decline of the coal resource in the Central Appalachian Basin, the center of the only existing 765 kV lines in the US. The fact that AEP owns all of these lines in a region of declining coal production shows why AEP is so desperate to rope the federal government into subsidizing the company to build 765 kV lines to other coal regions in the US.
So, while the new wind resource maps show a more nuanced picture of US wind resources, this new look does nothing to undermine my earlier points based on the older, cruder wind resource map.