WASHINGTON - Wind turbines as tall as 460 feet, nearly double the height of current turbines, could help tap incrementally higher winds for more profitable energy generation and making it possible for all the 50 states to become wind energy producers, according to an Energy Department report released Tuesday.
The US Department of Energy report 'Enabling Wind Power Nationwide' released at the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) 2015 Windpower Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida, states that propellers on poles would have to grow from a typical 260 feet tall to as much as 460 feet tall to make faster winds at higher altitudes an economical source of electricity, an important part of reaching the nation's goals in fighting global warming, said Ernest Moniz, the secretary of energy.
"We believe very much the central role of wind in meeting our climate challenges, and we're very committed in this direction," Moniz told reporters on the sidelines of the annual conference.
"It's going to require being able to take advantage of a broader set of resources," he said, besides giving wind power a "bigger footprint," onshore and off.
The wind energy industry has been moving skyward with taller turbine towers and larger blades, according to the Energy Department.
Over the last six years, technological developments has seen its adoption by many states like Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, where wind power can often be as inexpensive as conventional sources like coal.
By raising the height to 460 feet, industry experts feel it would help open up wind development potential in an additional 700,000 square miles more than a fifth of the United States bringing the total area to 1.8 million square miles.
"Wind generation has more than tripled in the United States in just six years, exceeding 4.5 percent of total generation, and we are focused on expanding its clean power potential to every state in the country," said Moniz.
"By producing the next generation of larger and more efficient wind turbines, we can create thousands of new jobs and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, as we fully unlock wind power as a critical national resource.
The DOE says the new report highlights the potential for technical advancements to tap wind resources in regions with limited wind development today, such as the Southeast, Northeast, states around the Ohio River valley and the Great Lakes, and parts of the interior West and Pacific Northwest.
In all, the report said, land-based and offshore wind could produce 16,150 gigawatts of electricity a year, more than 10 times the country's consumption. Wind installations now account for 65 gigawatts, just under 5 percent of national demand.
At the same time, working with the larger equipment would require innovation to meet the logistical challenges of building and transporting machinery that might exceed bridge heights or other physical limitations, the report said.
Environment experts have however expressed concerns that the proposed height of will increase the conflict between nature and human.
A new analysis by the American Bird Conservancy said more than 30,000 of the existing 48,000 turbines are in places that government agencies or nonprofit organizations such as the National Audubon Society describe as having special significance to birds.
More than 50,000 others are planned for construction in such locations about half of all turbines on the drawing board nationwide, according to the study, which the conservancy provided to The Associated Press.