Wind Power

The issue

Wind power generally refers to the use of the wind to generate either mechanical power or electricity. In the case of the latter, kinetic energy is converted into electricity using a generator.

Because wind is a variable resource and is often located far from load centers (large pockets of customers), integrating wind energy into the nation’s electric grid poses some challenges. However, many of these challenges can be addressed and / or mitigated if the country adopts a comprehensive transmission strategy similar to that which AEP has been advocating for a number of years.

Wind Capacity by state
39 U.S. states and Puerto Rico have operating utility-scale wind projects

How wind turbines work

The capacity of utility grade wind turbines ranges from about 100 kilowatts to several megawatts. Each turbine is mounted on a tower which raises the fan blades and the generator to an elevation that enables access to faster, less turbulent wind. The spinning of a rotor drives the shaft of a generator to produce electricity.

Most wind turbines do not operate at wind speeds greater than 55 mph. They have the technical capability to change the pitch of the blades so that they are not moved by the wind in order to avoid the damage that would result.

States with the most wind power capacity installed, through Q4 2012

Texas 12, 214 MW
California 5,544 MW
Iowa 5,133 MW
Illinois 3,568 MW
Oregon 3,153 MW

Source: American Wind Energy Association

The economics of wind power

The following factors determine the economic viability of wind power projects:

  1. Wind speed – the energy generated is a function of the wind speed: a 10% increase in wind speed results in a 33% increase in energy production.
  2. The height of the tower and length of the blades
  3. The size of the wind farm – fixed costs measured in $/kWh generally decrease as projects grow in size, i.e. over 50 MW.
  4. The cost of financing long-term assets
  5. Transmission market constraints
  6. Federal, state and local tax incentives

Wind power at AEP

AEP has over a decade of experience in wind projects. Additionally, AEP’s operating companies have entered into various long-term power purchase contracts. For more information on AEP’s experience with wind energy, please visit the following page:
http://www.aep.com/environment/climatechange/renewableenergy.aspx