Wind power potential in the United States is more than triple what was originally thought, according to new estimates from the U.S. Department of Energy, as improved technology makes this renewable energy source more accessible.
A new study released last week, the first since 1993, estimated that onshore U.S. wind resources could generate nearly 37,000,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) annually, more than nine times current total U.S. electricity consumption. The previous government survey of wind resources estimated U.S. wind potential at 10,777,000 GWh.
“This new analysis confirms that America is blessed with vast wind resources that can energize our economy, create jobs, and avoid carbon for years to come,” American Wind Energy Association chief executive Denise Bode said.
The new assessment from the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in collaboration with AWS Truewind of Albany, N.Y., measured wind at higher distances – 80 meters – and used more refined measuring techniques. Advances in wind turbine technology have expanded the potential wind use in higher elevations.
The new estimates also realigned the ranking of states for wind energy potential, making Texas No. 1 and relegating the previous top state, North Dakota, to sixth position. Texas is also the leader in wind energy production, with Iowa, now No. 7 in wind potential, ranking second in production.
The top 10 states in the new ranking are:
5. South Dakota
6. North Dakota
10. New Mexico
Indiana, Ohio and Oregon move into the top 20 for wind energy potential for the first time.
The potential capacity of America’s onshore wind resource is over 10,000 gigawatts (GW), AWEA noted. Even though the U.S. wind industry added nearly 10 GW of new capacity in 2009 – enough to power 2.4 million homes or generate as much electricity as three large nuclear power plants – the current wind installed capacity is just 35 GW in the U.S., and just 158 GW worldwide.
“The wind resource is there, vast and inexhaustible, waiting for us,” Bode said, urging Congress to mandate wind energy targets. “A national Renewable Electricity Standard would not only ensure that we tap our nation’s vast wind resources, but create thousands of new American jobs today, manufacturing the 8,000 component parts that go into a modern wind turbine.”
By Darrell Delamaide