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Use of wind energy in US growing, but planning and guidelines are lacking

WASHINGTON -- Although the use of wind energy to generate electricity is increasing rapidly in the United States, government guidance to help communities and developers evaluate and plan proposed wind-energy projects is lacking, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council. To inform the development of guidelines, the report offers an analysis of the environmental benefits and drawbacks of wind energy, along with an evaluation guide to aid decision-making about projects. As a case study, the committee that wrote the report looked at the mid-Atlantic highlands, a mountainous area that spans parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The report does not examine the impact of offshore wind-energy projects.

Currently, federal regulation of wind projects on private land is minimal, the report observes. And although some states have developed guidelines, wind energy is such a recent addition to the energy mix in most areas -- the nation's wind-energy capacity more than quadrupled between 2000 and 2006 -- that most states are relatively inexperienced at planning and regulation. Despite the growth in its use, wind energy still generates less than 1 percent of the nation's electricity. Some national-level policies to enhance the benefits of wind energy and minimize its harms would help guide state and local regulatory efforts, the report says.

Impacts on CO2 and Other Pollutants

A primary benefit of using wind to generate electricity is that it produces no carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas, or any other air pollutant. Based on U.S. Department of Energy projections for wind-energy development in the United States, the committee estimated that by 2020, wind energy will offset approximately 4.5 percent of the carbon dioxide that would otherwise be emitted by other electricity sources. In 2005, electricity generation accounted for 39 percent of the nation's total CO2
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Contact: Sara Frueh
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
The National Academies
3-May-2007


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