An easterly wind

Wind energy could power up to 30 percent of the Eastern and Midwestern United States by 2024, provided the infrastructure and funding for it were in place. That’s according to a new U.S. Department of Energy study. Currently, wind represents only about 2 percent of U.S. electricity generated.

The study presented various scenarios for wind to meet 20 percent of that region’s energy needs by 2024: One involves wind power in remote areas; another would have wind in larger towns and cities with some produced offshore; a third would rely on “aggressive” offshore wind development and increased wind energy near Eastern cities. The 30 percent mark could be met by combining wind farms in the Midwest with large offshore wind, the DOE determined.

However, a grid expansion of roughly 22,000 miles of power lines in the Midwest and offshore regions would be necessary, with an estimated cost—primarily to the federal government—of $90 billion, according to a Reuters news report.

Wind power grew 39 percent in 2009 compared to the year before, the American Wind Energy Association recently reported. An extra 9,900 megawatts of capacity was added, which is the largest on record. The growth was attributed to a wind tax credit and other incentives in the federal stimulus package, causing the AWEA to caution that the growth could slow.