Customer-owned wind energy systems are feasible for roughly 49.5 million commercial, industrial and residential sites, but growth in this sector has been modest so far, according to a DOE report.
Distributed wind – energy generation installed near the point of end use to meet on-site demand – currently supplies just 1 GW of U.S. capacity and is growing slowly, compared to utility-scale wind energy, which has grown more than six-fold over the last 10 years and currently supplies more than 75 GW. However, distributed wind turbines under 1 MW in size have a maximum potential of 3 TW or 4,400 TWh, more than the U.S. consumes in a year. Turbines over 1 MW could provide another 5.1 TW or 14,000 TWh, though some of that potential overlaps with areas that could be developed for utility-scale wind energy projects.
The report authors estimate that distributed wind capacity will reach 1.5 GW by 2030 and 3.7 GW by 2050, though reducing technology costs through research and development or new business models will allow deployment to grow more quickly. More aggressive technology cost reductions and higher adoption rates could result in 3.9 GW deployed by 2030 and 20 GW by 2050, the report adds.