Well, maybe not all over. In this week's Pulp & Paper Radio International broadcast on the Internet, we noted that alternative forms of energy production--namely, from wind and sun--have reached proportions of considerable importance to the US electricity supply. And their importance is growing. We homed in on wind generation and indicated we would do the same for solar power the next time around.
In the broadcast, we took a quick verbal look at which US states have seen the greatest advances in wind-power. And we noted that most wind energy production is taking place in regions with the fewest pulp and paper mills. The top five states with the most wind capacity installed are, in descending order, Texas, Iowa, California, Oklahoma and Illinois.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the contiguous 48 US states have the potential for producing 10,459 gigawatts of onshore wind power--an annual amount nine times larger than the current national total of electricity consumption. In addition to the onshore potential, another NREL report holds that the US has 4,150 gigawatts of potential offshore wind power capacity.
So...will this capacity be harnessed and streamed into the national grid? First, capture of the wind potential will continue happening in areas where it is already happening: areas with the strongest, free flowing wind conditions. And that does not include the Southeastern crescent of the US or the Northeastern region where so many pulp and paper mills and company head offices are located. Expansion into less windy areas must await saturation elsewhere and development of technology.
Expect to see more wind-powered turbines in areas where they are already standing. The Iowa Utilities Board approved in August MidAmerican Energy's $3.6 billion plan to build up to 2,000 megawatts of wind power generation, the largest wind energy project approved in the US to date. It will mean the building of 1,000 wind turbines. Windmills in Iowa currently generate 31% of the state's electricity. MidAmerican's goal is to raise that to 100%. Alliant Energy is also proposing a 500-megawatt installation in the state.
Xcel Energy says it will increase its wind generation capacity in the Upper Midwest by 60%, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. That's enough electricity to power about 750,000 homes. Xcel plans to add eight to 10 wind farms that will serve Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The new wind farms should come on line between 2017 and 2020.
With few exceptions, such as Wisconsin, the windy regions are not home to great numbers of pulp and paper mills. Will wind-generated electricity come to where the mills are? Sooner or later, yes. Remember TVA and REA and telephone companies gradually reaching out to consumer in outlying areas. It may take a while, but it will happen.
Chuck Swann is Senior Editor of Paperitalo Publications.