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Google+ Hangout: Wind Energy in America

Watch Dr. Ryan H. Wiser discuss findings from the 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report in this Google+ Hangout discussion on wind energy in America.

Meet Dr. Ryan H. Wiser, scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and co-author of the 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report. In the latest 10 Questions, Ryan discusses everything from his research and analysis on renewable energy to what he enjoys most about his work at Berkeley Lab.

Question: What is the Wind Technologies Market Report?

Dr. Ryan H. Wiser: The report -- now in its 7th year -- provides a detailed overview of developments and trends in the U.S. wind power market, with a particular focus on 2012. It provides details on wind power installation, industry, cost, performance, pricing, market, and policy developments. It focuses on larger-scale, land-based wind turbines; the Department of Energy separately publishes annual reports on offshore wind and distributed wind applications.

Q: Why is it important?

RH: The wind power market has expanded dramatically in recent years, making it hard to keep up with rapid industry, market, and policy developments. This report provides common information annually that can be used to track those key trends. As a DOE-funded and freely available report, it is widely used by wind industry participants, analysts, regulators, and policymakers, as well as by the Department of Energy and its national laboratories. 

Q: How did you get involved in conducting the analytic research for the report?

RH: At Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, we have been tracking and analyzing the wind energy sector for nearly two decades. With the support and funding from the DOE’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office, we decided seven years ago to consolidate the information we were gathering into a publicly accessible report.

Q: What findings from the report do you find the most interesting?

RH: The core of the report comes in its compilation of wind power cost, performance and pricing trends. Wind technology has changed dramatically over the years, and this report provides a solid resource that a diversity of stakeholders can use to understand those trends. Most importantly, over the last several years, the price of wind energy to purchasers has plummeted, even in the face on ongoing policy uncertainty, as technology performance has increased and costs have declined.

Q: What are the one or two key points you hope people better understand after reviewing the report?

RH: I hope people understand that wind really now is a mainstream source of energy -- it should no longer be considered an alternative or fringe resource. Wind represents a sizable fraction of the new electric capacity that we add each year in the United States, we have significant supply chain of wind equipment manufacturers, and wind contributes a significant and growing percentage of the nation’s electricity needs.

Q: Have you always had an interest in science?

RH: Yes, I have always had an interest in science, and especially the intersection between science, policy, and the natural environment. I am not so interested in science for its sake alone, but am instead motivated by how policy and science interact to improve environmental outcomes, especially mitigating climate change.

Q: What led to your career at Berkeley?

RH: My career at Berkeley Lab started as a graduate student at UC Berkeley -- I began work at Berkeley Lab in 1995 in part to be gainfully employed during my graduate studies. Over the years, the research program that I lead has grown, and we have added an extraordinary group of researchers to the mix, but it still focuses on informing decision-makers about the opportunities and challenges involved with deploying renewable energy such as wind and solar.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your work?

RH: I enjoy the intellectual challenge of developing and overseeing new areas of research, while focusing that research on topics of enormous social consequence -- namely, how to power our society economically, reliably, and with a minimum of environmental disturbance.

Q: What other research and analysis projects are you working on right now?

RH: We are doing really exciting work on both wind and solar energy. In wind, the Department of Energy has recently launched an effort to evaluate high-penetration wind energy futures, building on a similar report published in 2008 that explored a 20% wind electricity scenario for the United States. Here at Berkeley Lab, we are heavily involved in that exciting new study. In solar, we are seeking to build greater understanding of cost trends and approaches to accelerate cost reductions, while at the same time also conducting research that helps inform contemporary policy debates on how best to support the growth of solar energy.

Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

RH: What free time? No, really, I enjoy hiking, cooking, and spending time with my wonderful family.