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2005-06 Seminars


Technical Advancements and Public Policies Affecting Wind Power's Past, Present and Future

Constantine Samaras
Carnegie Mellon University

Abstract
Wind power has evolved from its mechanical "windmill" roots to become a viable zero emission utility-scale energy source, with costs that are now close to competitive in commercial power markets. With the nexus of concerns about energy security, high fossil fuel prices, and carbon dioxide emissions, wind power today is a focus of great interest. This presentation asks how did wind get to the point that it may be poised to become a serious player in supplying electricity, and how can the lessons learned from the past be utilized to ensure the future of wind energy?

Specifically it explores the relative role played by governmental R&D, incremental design innovations, and advances in and transfers from industries outside of wind energy in bringing wind to its current status.

Through both a careful review of the academic literature and trade publications, and interviews with officials, both in government and across the wind industry, this work examines the portfolio of engineering and public policy sources of cost reductions experienced by the utility-scale wind energy industry. By examining wind power’s development in this context, insight is gained on how to continue and expand the cost and design advancements that have enabled wind power to succeed.