The US Energy Department has released an assessment of the potential future growth of distributed wind energy in the USA through 2050. The report titled, "Assessing the Future of Distributed Wind: Opportunities for Behind-the-Meter Projects" quantifies the size of the resource as well as the economic and market potential for locally-produced, clean distributed wind energy at homes and businesses nationwide.
The report finds that behind-the-meter, distributed wind systems are technically feasible for approximately 49.5 million residential, commercial, and industrial sites. The overall maximum resource potential for distributed wind turbines of less than 1 megawatt in size is estimated at 3 terawatts (TW) of capacity or 4,400 TW-hours (TWh) of generation. Larger megawatt-scale distributed turbines could provide an additional 5.1 TW of capacity or 14,000 TWh of annual energy generation, but in some cases this megawatt-scale resource potential overlaps with areas that would also be suitable for utility-scale (non-distributed) wind development. Considering “business-as-usual” economics as well as consumer behaviours, the report authors estimate potential future deployment levels of 1.5GW of cumulative distributed wind capacity by 2030 and 3.7GW by 2050. Achieving this level of deployment would represent a 300% increase in the market by 2030 and three doublings of cumulative capacity by 2050. If technology costs can be reduced significantly through additional research and development, or if new business models make distributed wind systems easier for consumers to purchase and install, deployment could be much higher. For example, the report finds that with more aggressive technology cost reductions and higher consumer adoption, 3.9GW of behind-the-meter distributed wind could be deployed by 2030 and 20GW by 2050.