The Federal Wind Energy Program

EMD-77-33: Published: Mar 29, 1977. Publicly Released: Mar 29, 1977.

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Under the direction of the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is responsible for developing, testing, and evaluating large wind energy systems, and the Department of Agriculture is responsible for identifying, developing, and testing applications in rural and remote areas. Of the funds specifically designated for small, medium, and large systems from July 1974 through September 1976, more than 82 percent had been spent on large systems. The ERDA emphasis on these systems has been based on its belief that: well-defined commercial markets exist for large systems but not for small and medium-sized systems; large systems will provide cheaper power than the small and medium-sized; Federal assistance will be needed by industry to develop and commercialize large systems, but little Federal assistance will be needed to develop and commercialize smaller systems; areas needing improvement are well-defined for large systems, but not for the small and medium-sized; and a Federal program to develop small and medium-sized systems would eliminate private investment.

A GAO survey of the Wind Energy Program showed that: the decision to stress large systems was made without comparative analysis of small and medium-sized systems; and ERDA needs to systematically compare and evaluate the potential and advantages and disadvantages of wind energy systems of all sizes so that program content and priorities are proper and that resources are effectively allocated among the different sized wind energy systems and between the wind program and ERDA's other programs.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: ERDA should: direct the expeditious completion of market studies in sufficient depth to identify the commercial potential of small, medium, and large wind energy systems; using these market studies in conjunction with the ongoing and completed studies, make a comprehensive formal review of the formal potential and the advantages and disadvantages of wind energy systems of all sizes, and, if warranted, redirect resources within the Wind Energy Program and between the wind program and non-wind programs. Provided the ERDA comprehensive review shows that small and/or medium-sized systems have the potential for rapid commercial expansion, it should move quickly to develop optimum designs, identify constraints and impediments to commercialization and take actions to overcome them, and, if necessary, develop plans to demonstrate these systems.

    Agency Affected:


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