Wind power has the potential to provide 20 per cent of the USA’s electricity needs and save 825 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030 provided that a number of technical and regulatory barriers can be overcome, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE).

In a new, first-of-its kind report, the DOE states that its analysis confirms the viability and commercial maturity of wind as a major contributor to energy needs and identifies opportunities for avoiding 7.6 cumulative gigatons of CO2 emissions by 2030.

In preparing the report, the DOE examined wind resources, industrial capabilities and future energy prices to determine the feasibility of harnessing wind power. Wind power has been identified as playing an important part in the Bush Administration’s Advanced Energy Initiative, a long term energy strategy that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance energy security.

The report outlines a potential scenario to boost wind electric generation from its current production of 16.8 GW to 304 GW by 2030. It concludes that reaching 20 per cent wind energy will require enhanced transmission infrastructure, streamlined siting and permitting regimes, improved reliability and operability of wind systems, and increased US wind manufacturing capacity.

In order to reach 304 GW of wind capacity by 2030, the DOE believes that annual installations will need to increase by more than threefold, and that a number of issues relating to the construction of new transmission lines need to be addressed.

However, the DOE believes that the cost of integrating wind power to the grid are modest – less than 0.5 cents per kWh – and that no constraints exist in relation to raw material availability.

“The report correctly highlights that greater penetration of renewable sources of energy – such as wind – into our electric grid will have to be paired with not only advanced integration technologies but also new transmission,” DOE’s Assistant Secretary for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability Kevin Kolevar said. “In many cases, the most robust sources of renewable resources are located in remote areas, and if we want to be able to deliver these new clean and abundant sources of energy to population centers, we will need additional transmission.”

Win power capacity in the USA has grown by 30 per cent per year over the last five years, with more than 5000 MW of new capacity installed in 2007.