U.S. Wind Resource Larger Than Previously Estimated

Wind turbine by the Great Lakes Science Center in downtown Cleveland.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has issued the following statement from AWEA CEO Denise Bode on a new assessment from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory showing that U.S. wind resources are larger than previously estimated:

“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—if we give ourselves the policy tools to do so, including a strong national Renewable Electricity Standard with aggressive, binding near- and long-term 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. The wind resource is there, vast and inexhaustible, waiting for us. Meanwhile, the economy can’t wait, job creation can’t wait, and America can’t wait. We need Congress to act now and pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill that includes a strong national Renewable Electricity Standard.”

Highlights of the new analysis include:

* 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.

* Put another way, the potential capacity of America’s onshore wind resource is over 10,000 gigawatts (GW). The U.S. is barely tapping this vast resource: current wind installed capacity is 35 GW in the U.S. and 158 GW world-wide.

* These larger estimates are due to improved wind turbine technology, as today’s taller turbines tap better winds at higher elevations (this study measured winds at 80 meters), and to more refined wind measurements. The previous national government survey of U.S. wind resources, carried out by the Pacific Northwest Laboratory, estimated U.S. wind potential at 10,777,000 GWh.

* Within this bigger “pie” of wind resources, the top 10 windiest states are:

  • 1. Texas
  • 2. Kansas
  • 3. Montana
  • 4. Nebraska
  • 5. South Dakota
  • 6. North Dakota
  • 7. Iowa
  • 8. Wyoming
  • 9. Oklahoma
  • 10. New Mexico

* Indiana, Ohio, and Oregon move into the top 20 windiest states list for the first time.

* In a single year, the U.S. wind resource potential could produce 364.9 quadrillion btus, the energy equivalent of all proven oil and natural gas reserves in the U.S. as estimated by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). A renewable resource, wind resource will not be depleted and will continue to provide energy year after year.

In 2009, the U.S. wind industry added nearly 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new capacity, enough to power the equivalent of 2.4 million homes or generate as much electricity as three large nuclear power plants. The wind turbine fleet in place at year’s end–over 35,000 MW–is enough to power the equivalent of some 9.7 million homes, and that number is increasing at the rate of a million homes every five months.

AWEA is the national trade association of America’s wind industry, with more than 2,500 member companies, including global leaders in wind power and energy development, wind turbine manufacturing, component and service suppliers, and the world’s largest wind power trade show. AWEA is the voice of wind energy in the U.S., promoting renewable energy to power a cleaner, stronger America.

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