Jul 17, 2008
Wind power currently provides a meager 1% of U.S. electricity needs. The U.S. Department of Energy would like to see that number increase to 20% by 2030. The Congressional Research Service (CRS), a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, has released a report entitled Wind Power in the United States: Technology, Economic, and Policy Issues.
The CRS is a non-partisan research service that produces reports for members of Congress and their committees. Their reports are not automatically made available to the public, and there is some controversy over whether they should be and, if so, through what venue. The CRS spends $100 million of taxpayer money each year enlightening Congress, and some of those taxpayers believe they are entitled to a peek at the non-classified results. At present, the reports come to us through a variety of individuals and services, including (to name but two) OpenCRS, a project of the Center for Democracy & Technology, and the Federation of American Scientists through their Secrecy News Blog or at their page dedicated to CRS reports.
The 53-page report is a good starting point for understanding where we have been, where we are, and where we are going with wind power. The essential challenge of the technology involves the capture, storage, and distribution of the electricity produced, though various other issues—aesthetic, economic, and political— also provide tough nuts to crack on the way to making wind a significant contributor to our enormous electricity needs. However, it's not a question of if but of when it will do so, and now is a good time to get a working knowledge of the issues involved.
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