Power in the Air

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"To get to [20% wind energy in a decade] is totally doable," asserts Dan Kammen, a professor specializing in energy at the University of California, Berkeley. For instance, Germany now gets 14% of its electricity from wind power and is heading toward 20%, Kammen notes.

...GE is one of the many companies playing a role in the debate over how to wean the U.S. off fossil fuels. Last week, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore jumped into the fray by declaring that the U.S. should aim to eliminate all use of carbon-based fuels within 10 years' time. That ups the ante laid down by billionaire oilman Pickens, who in early July asserted that the U.S. should generate 20% of its electricity through wind power within a decade.

Those goals sound audacious. Currently, wind, the fastest growing sector of renewable energy in the U.S., generates about 16.8 billion watts (gigawatts), or slightly more than 1%, of domestic electric utility power. Renewable electricity generation in total amounts to about 8% of U.S. of the total produced in 2007--70% of which comes from hydro power.

Even so, utility industry experts as well as large producers such as GE Energy assert that all the technological pieces exist to meet at least Picken's goals. "To get to [20% wind energy] is totally doable," asserts Dan Kammen, a professor specializing in energy at the University of California, Berkeley. For instance, Germany now gets 14% of its electricity from wind power and is heading toward 20%, Kammen notes.

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