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Wind power in the United States is a growing industry. The U.S. is the leading producer of electricity from wind power.[1] In 2008, the United States was the fastest growing wind power market in the world for the third year in a row.[2] DOE has said wind power could generate 20% of US electricity by 2030.[3][4][5]

At the end of September 2008, the United States wind power installed nameplate capacity was 21.02 GW, which is enough to serve 5.6 million average households. $9 billion was invested in 5.3 gigawatts of new U.S. wind power capacity in 2007, causing the total U.S. wind power capacity to increase by 46%.[2] Wind power accounted for 35% of all new U.S. electric generating capacity in 2007. American wind farms will generate an estimated 48 terawatt-hours (TWh) of wind energy in 2008, just over 1.5% of U.S. electricity supply.[6] In addition, new transmission facilities under development throughout the country should allow the future development of at least another 200 gigawatts of wind power.

The growing U.S. wind market spurred new investment in turbine and component manufacturing plants, with enough new and planned facilities to create more than 4,700 new U.S. jobs.

The world's top wind producerEdit

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U.S. wind power nameplate capacity is exceeded only by Germany, with Spain a close third. However, because U.S. wind farms have a higher average capacity factor than those in Germany due to higher average wind speeds, the U.S. became the world's largest producer of energy from the wind in mid-2008.[7][8] As the U.S. is adding wind power faster than any other nation as of 2008, it should become the world leader in nameplate capacity sometime in 2009. The largest projects are in Texas, the Great Plains, and California, with smaller projects either underway or under consideration in many states.

As of September 2008, Texas (6,297 MW) was the state with the most wind capacity installed, followed by California (2,493 MW).

The largest operational wind farm is the 736 MW Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Texas. The Pampa Wind Farm is scheduled to surpass it by 2011.

Wind power by stateEdit

Most new wind power capacity is being built in the Great Plains region of the United States, which has a favorable combination of characteristics: ample wind resources, an extensive rail and highway network for shipping outsized turbine components, flat topography which both improves the wind and makes turbine components easier to ship, and broad acceptance from local farmers and ranchers. The table below shows wind potential and installed capacity along with existing construction (to end of September 2008).

State 50m
in state %
by wind
end of 2007[2]
North Dakota 138,400 517 196 3.8
Texas 136,100 6,297 2,470 3.0
Kansas 121,900 465 548 2.3
South Dakota 117,200 187 51 6.0
Montana 116,000 165 106 1.9
Nebraska 99,100 73 81 0.7
Wyoming 85,200 459 237 1.7
Oklahoma 82,700 689 142 3.0
Minnesota 75,000 1,377 350 7.5
Iowa 62,900 1,394 1,480 7.5
Colorado 54,900 1,067 0 6.1
New Mexico 49,700 496 100 4.0
Idaho 8,290 75 71 1.5
Michigan 7,460 55 60
New York 7,080 707 588 0.7
Illinois 6,980 744 171 0.8
California 6,770 2,493 275 2.8
Wisconsin 6,440 395 54
Maine 6,390 42 57 0.8
Missouri 5,960 162 146
Nevada 5,740 0 0
Pennsylvania 5,120 323 272
Oregon 4,870 964 353 4.4
Washington 3,740 1,367 70 2.8
Massachusetts 2,880 5.3 3
Utah 2,770 19.8 0
Arkansas 2,460 0.1 0
Virginia 1,380 0 0
New Jersey 1,200 7.5 0
Arizona 1,090 0 0
North Carolina 835 0 0
West Virginia 594 230 100
Connecticut 571 0 0
Vermont 537 6.0 0
New Hampshire 502 1.4 24
Ohio 416 7.4 0
Maryland 338 0 0
Delaware 197 0 0
Tennessee 186 29 0
Georgia 171 0 0
Rhode Island 109 0.66 0
South Carolina 59 0 0
Kentucky 34 0 0
Indiana 30 40,000[10] 130 400
Hawaii unknown 63 0 2.3
Alaska unknown 1.59 0
Alabama 0 0 0
Florida 0 0 0
Louisiana 0 0 0
Mississippi 0 0 0
Total 1,230,299 21,017 8,407 1.1
  • Note: 50m Potential capacity is based on 10D by 5D spacing (D = rotor diameter) of 50 m high turbines in class 3 or better wind with moderate exclusions.[11]

Largest wind farmsEdit


As of March 2008, these are some of the largest wind farms in the United States:

Farm Installed
Altamont Pass Wind Farm 576[12]
Fowler Ridge Wind Farm 750 Indiana
Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center 736 Texas
San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm 619 California
Sweetwater Wind Farm 505 Texas
Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm 690

Template:Wide image Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center is the world's largest wind farm at 735.5 megawatt (MW) capacity. It consists of 291 GE Energy 1.5 MW wind turbines and 130 Siemens 2.3 MW wind turbines spread over nearly 47,000 acres (190 km²) of land in Taylor and Nolan County, Texas.[14] The first phase of the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center consisted of 213 MW and was completed in late 2005; phase two consisted of 223.5 MW and was completed in the second quarter of 2006; phase three which consisted of 299 MW, was completed by the end of 2006.[14]

The Fowler Ridge Wind Farm is currently under construction in Benton County, Indiana. The wind farm will be completed in two phases and will have a maximum generating capacity of 750 MW total. The first phase of the project, consisting of 222 wind turbines, will bring the first 400 MW on-line by the end of 2008. Phase 2 (350 MW) could begin in early 2009.[15]

A proposed 4,000 MW facility, called the Pampa Wind Project, is to be located near Pampa, Texas, with the first 1,000 MW to come online by 2011.

Wind power industry and government supportEdit

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The U.S. has a significant wind turbine industry but also relies on imports to supply its rapidly growing industry. GE Energy provided over 2.3 gigawatts of new wind capacity in North America in 2007, an increase of more than 100% over the prior year. To help GE meet the high demand for wind turbines, two component suppliers, Molded Fiber Glass Companies and TPI Composites, announced plans in 2007 to build new wind turbine blade manufacturing plants in Aberdeen, South Dakota and Newton, Iowa respectively. The new plants will enable both companies to increase their capacity for producing blades for GE's 1.5-megawatt wind turbines, which are among the most widely used machines.[16]

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will work with six leading wind turbine manufacturers over the next 2 years with an eye toward achieving 20% wind power in the United States by 2030. The DOE announced the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with GE Energy, Siemens Power Generation, Vestas Wind Systems, Clipper Windpower, Suzlon Energy, and Gamesa Corporation. Under the MOU, the DOE and the six manufacturers will collaborate to gather and exchange information relating to five major areas: research and development related to turbine reliability and operability; siting strategies for wind power facilities; standards development for turbine certification and universal interconnection of wind turbines; manufacturing advances in design, process automation, and fabrication techniques; and workforce development. [17][18]

In addition, the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has announced a number of wind technology projects, including a new state-of-the-art wind turbine blade test facility to be build in Ingleside, Texas. The Texas-NREL Large Blade Research and Test Facility will be capable of testing blades as long as 70 meters (230 feet). It will be built and operated through a partnership among NREL, DOE, and a state consortium led by University of Houston, with the university owning and operating the facility's buildings, DOE funding up to $2 million in capital costs, and NREL providing technical and operational assistance. The blade test facility is estimated to cost between $12 million and $15 million and should be completed by 2010. Located on the Gulf Coast, the Texas facility will complement a similar facility that is being built on the coast of Massachusetts. [19]

NREL has also recently signed agreements with Siemens Power Generation and First Wind, a wind power developer. Siemens is launching a new research and development facility in nearby Boulder, Colorado, and has agreed to locate and test a commercial-scale wind turbine at NREL's National Wind Technology Center (NWTC). First Wind (formerly called UPC Wind Partners, LLC) owns and operates the 30-megawatt Kaheawa Wind Power farm in West Maui, Hawaii, and has agreed to let the NWTC establish a Remote Research Affiliate Partner Site at the facility. The Maui satellite of NWTC will collaborate with First Wind on studies to develop advanced wind energy technologies, including energy storage and integration of renewable electricity into Maui's electrical grid. [20]

In July, 2008, Texas approved a $4.93 billion expansion of the state's electric grid to bring wind energy to its major cities. Transmission companies will recoup the cost of constructing the new power lines, expected to be completed in 2013, from fees estimated at $4 per month for residential customers.[21]

The Great River Energy headquarters in Minnesota has a 160-foot tall, 200 kilowatt NEG Micon M700 wind turbine (visible from Interstate 94), and a 72-kilowatt solar array at ground level and on the rooftop.[22][23] In 2007 the wind turbine was one of only six installed in a metropolitan area in the United States. The output and building electricity usage can be monitored on the Internet.[24]

Tax creditsEdit

A 30% federal tax credit for installing wind as well as an RPS in about half of the states has boosted the development of the wind industry. In 2008 a 131 foot wind turbine blade was on display first outside the Democratic National Convention in Denver and then the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis.[25] At the time the wind power tax credit was due to expire at the end of the year, and the display was intended to bring awareness to the wind industry. Each year that the tax credit has not been renewed well before it expires the number of installations has dropped significantly the following year, and since it was not renewed until October 3, it is expected that 2009 will as well see a slowing of construction starts.[26] The 30% tax credit for installing photovoltaics was extended at the same time for eight years, but wind for only one year. The industry has asked for a long term extension, in order to provide stability, particularly because many projects take at least a year to plan.

Additional income for farmersEdit

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Main article: wind farm

There is considerable competition for wind farms among farmers in places like Iowa or ranchers in Colorado. Farmers, with no investment on their part, typically receive $3,000–5,000 per year in reliable royalties from the local utility for siting a single, large, advanced-design wind turbine, which occupies a quarter-acre of land. This land would otherwise produce 40 bushels of corn worth $120 or, in ranch country, beef worth perhaps $15, and even less during years of drought or other difficulties. In coming years, thousands of ranchers could be earning more from electricity sales than from cattle sales, and the diversified income would be largely unaffected by the normal ups and downs of farming and ranching. In addition to the additional income, tax revenue, and jobs that wind farms bring, money spent on electricity generated from wind farms stays in the community, creating a ripple effect throughout the local economy.[27][28][29][30]

Aesthetics, the environment and quality of lifeEdit

Main article: Environmental effects of wind power

Landscape and ecological issues may be significant for some wind farm proposals.[31] However, when appropriate planning procedures for site selection are followed environmental problems should be minimal. Some people may still object to wind farms, but their concerns should be weighed against the need to address the threats posed by climate change and fossil fuel depletion, the need for energy security, and the opinions of the broader community.[32][33]

Worldwide experience has shown that community consultation and direct involvement of the general public in wind farm projects has helped to increase community approval,[34] and some wind farms overseas have become tourist attractions.[35][33]

In July 2008, notable oilman T. Boone Pickens emerged as perhaps the most recognizable American advocate of wind power, as a component in his Pickens Plan to reduce the $700 billion per year the U.S. was spending to import petroleum.[7]

Intrepid Wind FarmEdit

The Intrepid Wind Farm, in Iowa, is an example of one wind farm where the environmental impact of the project has been minimized through consultation and co-operation:

"Making sure the wind farm made as gentle an environmental impact as possible was an important consideration. Therefore, when MidAmerican first began planning the Intrepid site, they worked closely with a number of state and national environmental groups. Using input from such diverse groups as the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Nature Conservancy, Iowa State University, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, and the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, MidAmerican created a statewide map of areas in the proposed region that contained specific bird populations or habitats. Those areas were then avoided as site planning got underway in earnest. In order to minimize the wind farm's environmental impact even further, MidAmerican also worked in conjunction with the Army Corp of Engineers, to secure all necessary permits related to any potential risk to wetlands in the area. Regular inspections are also conducted to make certain that the wind farm is causing no adverse environmental impact to the region."[36]


In Massachusetts, two proposed wind farms have had approval difficulties. The Cape Wind project, a proposal to construct 130 offshore wind turbines in the Nantucket Sound, is the subject of heavy debate[37] in the affluent communities of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket as well as among environmentalists. The Hoosac Wind project, which plans to build 20 turbines on two ridgelines in the rural towns of Florida and Monroe, was initially the subject of little official controversy, but has been delayed by a suit to protect wetlands.[1]

See alsoEdit

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External linksEdit

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