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Study expands commercial US wind power potential

(Wednesday, June 4, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- SAN FRANCISCO - About a fourth of the United States packs winds powerful enough to generate electricity as cheaply as natural gas or coal-fired plants, according to a study by Stanford University researchers. The study, which measured wind speeds at turbines perched at the height of a 20-story building, also said the Southeast and Gulf coasts offer "the greatest previously uncharted reservoir of wind power in the continental United States."

The Stanford study, the first to measure winds at new turbines mounted at 262 feet above ground versus older turbines of 164 feet, said "the unexploited electric power potential from winds in the United States appears enormous."

Tom Gray, deputy executive director of the American Wind Energy Association trade group, welcomed the study's conclusions and said "it expands on what we have known, that our wind resource is huge.

"There are practical issues to overcome like placing transmission capacity in the right locations and determining what is involved in developing offshore resources from a technical standpoint and at what cost," Gray said this week, adding the federal government should support the resource to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

The study by co-authors Christina Archer, a graduate student at Stanford, and Mark Jacobson, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, was published in the May online issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

They collected and worked with data from the year 2000 at 1,327 surface wind stations and 87 "soundings," or profiles of wind speeds at different heights.

Wind speeds were fast enough at 24 percent of the measurement stations to generate electricity at a direct cost equal to a power plant fueled by coal of natural gas, the study concluded.

The researchers also discovered that North Carolina, Louisiana and Texas had fast winds at coastal and offshore sites, and overall, 37 percent of U.S. shoreline and offshore locations packed strong winds.

The Plains states of Oklahoma, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska topped the list of states with the most powerful winds.

The study said that because the wind is intermittent, wind power farms in locations with high wind speeds could be linked into energy networks "that may provide a reliable and abundant source of electric power."

Wind power accounts for less than 1 percent of the nation's energy supply, while coal and natural gas together generate about two thirds of the electricity.

Source: Reinforced Plastics