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CEIC-06-05

"Learning from wind: A framework for effective low-carbon energy diffusion"

Constantine T. Samaras

Abstract:
Over the past twenty-five years, wind power has evolved from an emerging alternative energy source to a commercially viable utility-scale technology that can play a role in a low-carbon future. Wind turbines have matured technically from simple machines constructed with off-the-shelf motor components to carefully optimized advanced power generation systems with a worldwide manufacturer and supplier base. Advancements in wind power occurred through actions in both the engineering and public policy institutional arenas. This research examines the technologies, policies, and inter-industry spillovers that have enabled the exponential growth of installed wind power from 1999 through 2005 and analyzes the relative efficacies of the various policies and actors that comprise the wind innovation system. It provides engineers and policymakers a program management and policy design framework for continued development of wind energy as well as for other emerging low-carbon energy technologies.
Spillovers from technical domains outside of wind energy are found to have played a critical role in enabling wind to achieve significant levels of penetration into the energy system. This suggests that energy policies designed to leverage spillovers across interdependent industries may be more effective at encouraging low-carbon energy adoption compared with policies tailored toward promoting a specific technology.
 

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