WASHINGTON -- Wind power could provide 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030, according to a report released Monday by the Department of Energy that advances a plan for the industry's growth.
Today, wind farms produce about 1 percent of the nation's energy needs. A 20 percent share would put wind on par with nuclear energy as an energy source.
In order to dramatically increase wind energy output, the report calls for about 75,000 new wind turbines and a new network of transmission lines to carry the power across the country.
The report "confirms the viability and commercial maturity of wind as a major contributor to America's energy needs, now and in the future," said Andy Karsner, DOE assistant secretary of energy efficiency and renewable energy, at a news conference.
Such growth would pose a number of major challenges, but is achievable without the need of major new technological breakthroughs, the department said in the report that was written in a collaboration between national laboratories and industry.
"The report indicates that we can do this nationally for less than half a cent per kilowatt hour if we have the vision," Karsner said.
Nevada is expected to provide about 1 percent to 3 percent of a national 300,000-megawatt goal by 2030, according to the report. One megawatt can power about 750 homes.
As of today, Nevada does not have any utility-scale wind farms producing power, but some are on the drawing boards.
Power companies in Nevada face a years-long process to obtain land and air use permits by the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Defense and the Air Force before they can be given the go-ahead to build wind farms, said Tim Carlson, managing partner of Nevada Wind LLC.
"The land is pretty well taken by the federal government," Carlson said. "You fail to remember when building a wind project the air space is also very well covered."
Objections by Air Force officials caused a previous Carlson wind project, a $130 million farm on the Nevada Test Site, to be canceled because of national security concerns.
Both Nevada Wind and Nevada Power Co. have wind projects in development that appear to have government approval.
Carlson said he expects a 150-megawatt project along the Pah Rah mountain range to be completed by 2011. A second 750-megawatt, $500 million project spanning across the mid-eastern portion of Nevada will be finished around 2012, he said.
Todd Eagleston, Nevada Power's renewable-energy representative, said the company's 200-megawatt China Mountain project will be finished between 2010 and 2011.
Carlson said providing 20 percent of the nation's power through wind energy is a lofty goal but not unreachable.
"It's a great goal. I hope we achieve it," he said. "Can we? Is it realistic? We won't know for a few more years."
The report cautioned that its findings were not meant to predict that such growth would, in fact, be achieved, but only that it is technically possible. And it acknowledged "there are significant costs, challenges and impacts" associated with such rapid growth.
It would require improved turbine technology, "significant changes" and expansion of power line systems, and a major expansion of markets for wind energy to accommodate an annual growth rate of 16,000 megawatts of electricity a year beginning in 2018.
About 835 million metric tons of carbon dioxide -- a 25 percent reduction -- would be saved per year if wind power does account for one-fifth of the nation's energy, according to the report.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Sara Spivey at sspivey@ stephensmedia.com or 702-383-0290.