The cost of wind power has been falling steadily again since the 2008 price spike, and newer projects have been coming in at 2 cents per kilowatt-hour, making them very competitive with natural gas fired power and ranking among the very lowest-cost ways to generate electricity. But can wind prices keep falling, or have they bottomed out?

A recent report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the National Renewable Energy Lab, and other organizations offers some clues. Based on a survey of 163 of the world’s foremost wind energy experts, it examines in detail what factors have led to wind’s cost reductions in the past, and attempts to forecast what will drive further cost reductions in the future. It also looks at some of the reasons why previous forecasts have underestimated the growth and cost reductions of wind, and suggests that many agency forecasts may be underestimating them still. In this episode, one of the report’s principal authors explains the findings and offers some cautionary words about how much confidence we can have in our forecasts.

Geek rating: 4

Guest: Dr. Ryan Wiser is a Senior Scientist and Group Leader in the Electricity Markets and Policy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Ryan leads and conducts research and analysis on renewable energy, including on the planning, design, and evaluation of renewable energy policies; on the costs, benefits, and market potential of renewable electricity sources; on electric grid operations and infrastructure impacts; and on public acceptance and deployment barriers. Ryan holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Stanford University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Energy and Resources from the University of California, Berkeley.

On Twitter: @BerkeleyLabEMP

On the Web: Ryan Wiser page at LBNL

Recording date: October 28, 2016

Air date: November 16, 2016

Links

LBNL, Forecasting Wind Energy Costs and Cost Drivers: The Views of the World’s Leading Experts. (Jun 2016)

Wiser, Ryan, Karen Jenni, Joachim Seel, Erin Baker, Maureen Hand, Eric Lantz, and Aaron Smith. “Expert elicitation survey on future wind energy costs.Nature Energy 1 (2016): 16135.

Wiser, Ryan and Bolinger, Mark. “Wind Technologies Market Report.” Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, LBNL-1005951, August 2016.

DOE Wind Vision Report

Lauri Myllyvirta and Joanna Mills, “China starts cancelling under-construction coal plants,” Greenpeace. (Oct 21, 2016)

Megan Darby, “Wind, solar costs undercut new coal plants in South Africa,” Climate Home. (Oct 21, 2016)

Julia Pyper, “Wireless Charging: Coming Soon to an Electric Vehicle Near You,” Greentech Media. (Oct 27, 2016)

David Roberts, “Wireless charging: the key to unlocking an electric vehicle revolution,” Vox. (May 24, 2016)

Tesla’s auto-erotic automatic charger

IEA, “IEA raises its five-year renewable growth forecast as 2015 marks record year.” (Oct 25, 2016)

Jeff McMahon, “Elon Musk Leaves Room For Utilities Under the Tesla Solar Roof,” Forbes. (Oct 28, 2016)

Ivan Penn and Russ Mitchell, “Elon Musk unveils much-anticipated solar roof design,” Los Angeles Times. (Oct 28, 2016)

Photo credit: By 林 慕尧 / Chris Lim from East Coast (东海岸), Singapore (新加坡) – Windmills in China?{D70 series}, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2909338