While wind power has made great strides breaking into energy markets in recent years, there is still much more room to expand.


A recent study released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sees great potential. “Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States” represents a collaborative analysis of future scenarios for the industry. It is also an update of a similar report released in 2008.


The namesake of that previous report, “20% Wind Energy by 2030,” refers to the percentage of national electricity demand that could potentially come from wind by 2030. The new report looks at some of the same future scenarios and offers an analysis of their impact.


According to the DOE, the nation currently gets approximately 61 gigawatts, or 4.5 percent of its electricity, from wind. That is up from 1.5 percent in 2008.


With a potential wind capacity more than 10 times greater than current demand, the study looked at scenarios in which the percentage of electricity grows well beyond its current levels, to 10 percent by 2020, 20 percent by 2030 and 35 percent by 2050.


The potential impact from those levels of wind power are noteworthy. For example, the study foresees a 1 percent rise in electricity costs by 2030 but a cost savings of 2 percent by 2050. Several factors could contribute to this trend, including a gradual lowering of costs for wind-power technology and lower demand for other forms of energy due to the increased diversity that a growing wind-power sector helps create.


The study also points to other indirect benefits, such as a 25 percent reduction in water use by the electric industry, increased revenue to farmers and other landowners from land leases for wind farms, and, perhaps most important, 600,000 wind-industry-related jobs spread across the country.