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Wind power in the United States

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Wind power in the United States

Brazos Wind Ranch in Texas.
Mendota Hills Wind Farm in northern Illinois
Wind farm in Southeastern Washington

Wind power in the United States is a branch of the energy industry, expanding quickly over the last several years. As of the end of 2013 the capacity was 61,108 MW.[1] This capacity is exceeded only by China[2] and the European Union[3] 11,895 MW of wind power was installed in 2012 alone, representing 26.5% of new power capacity. The EU wind industry has had an average annual growth of 15.6% over the last 17 years (1995-2011).[3] Projects totalling 12,000 MW of capacity were under construction at the end of 2013, including 10,900 MW that began construction in the 4th quarter.[1]

For the 12 months through August 2014, the electricity produced from wind power in the United States amounted to 177.44 terawatt-hours, or 4.33% of all generated electrical energy.[4]

A 2012 report by a clean energy consulting group concluded that new wind farms can produce electricity in the 5-8 cents per kWh range, making wind power cost-competitive with fossil fuels in many areas.[5] As of 2013, the US Energy Information Administration estimates the "levelized cost" of wind energy from new installations as 7 to 10 cents per kWh, depending on the geographic area, but cautioned that levelized costs of non-dispatchable sources such as wind should be compared to the avoided energy cost rather than the levelized cost of dispatchable sources such as fossil fuels or geothermal.[6] Sixteen states have installed over 1,000 MW of wind capacity with Michigan just breaking the mark in the 4th quarter of 2013.[1] Texas, with 12,355 MW of capacity, has the most installed wind power capacity of any U.S. state, followed by California and Iowa with 5,830 MW and 5,178 MW respectively.[1] The Alta Wind Energy Center in California is the largest wind farm in the United States with a capacity of 1320 MW of power.[7] GE Energy is the largest domestic wind turbine manufacturer.[8]

The U.S. Department of Energy’s report 20% Wind Energy by 2030 envisioned that wind power could supply 20% of all U.S. electricity, which included a contribution of 4% from offshore wind power. On January 1, 2013 the production tax credit was extended for another year.[9] Uncertainty about future tax benefits for wind power has led some companies to relocate or close their production facilities.[10]


Map illustrating installed wind generating capacity for U.S. states at end of 2013.
Wind energy has grown rapidly in the last decade, with an average increase of 29.7%/year.[11]
Monthly wind electric power generation in the US, 2008-2014
Average monthly capacity factors for electricity generation by utility-scale wind turbines in the United States, 2011-2014 (US Energy Information Administration data).

The first municipal use of multiple wind-electric turbines in the USA may have been a five turbine system in Pettibone, North Dakota in 1940. These were commercial Wincharger units on guyed towers.[12]

In 1980 the world's first wind farm, consisting of twenty 30 kW wind turbines was installed at Crotched Mountain, in New Hampshire.[13]

From 1974 through the mid-1980s the United States government worked with industry to advance the technology and enable large commercial wind turbines. A series of NASA wind turbines were developed under a program to create a utility-scale wind turbine industry in the U.S., with funding from the National Science Foundation and later the United States Department of Energy (DOE). A total of 13 experimental wind turbines were put into operation, in four major wind turbine designs. This research and development program pioneered many of the multi-megawatt turbine technologies in use today, including: steel tube towers, variable-speed generators, composite blade materials, partial-span pitch control, as well as aerodynamic, structural, and acoustic engineering design capabilities.

Later, in the 1980s, California provided tax rebates for wind power. These rebates funded the first major use of wind power for utility electricity. These machines, gathered in large wind parks such as at Altamont Pass would be considered small and un-economic by modern wind power development standards. In 1985 half of the world's wind energy was generated at Altamont Pass. By the end of 1986 about 6,700 wind turbines, mostly less than 100 kW, had been installed at Altamont, at a cost of about $1 billion, and generated about 550 million kWh/year.[14][15]

In terms of installed wind power capacity, the United States is currently second only to China.[16] As of 31 December 2013, the top five states with the most wind capacity installed are:[1]

The United States generates more electricity than either Germany or China, for the same installed capacity. In 2011, the U.S. generated 121 TWh, 27.7% of the world's wind generation, with 19.7% of the world's installed wind capacity, while China generated 73.2 TWh (16.7% of the world's total with 26.1% of the world's installed wind capacity). Germany generated 10.6% of the world's wind generation with 12.1% of the world's installed wind capacity, in 2011.[17] The top five states according to percentage of generation by wind in 2013 are:[18]

The ten largest wind farms in the United States are:

Project Capacity (MW) State
Alta Wind Energy Center 1320[7] California
Shepherds Flat Wind Farm 845[19] Oregon
Roscoe Wind Farm 781[20] Texas
Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center 736 Texas
Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm 705 California
Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm 662 Texas
San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm 619 California
Fowler Ridge Wind Farm 600 Indiana
Sweetwater Wind Farm 585[21] Texas
Altamont Pass Wind Farm 576[22] California

The Alta Wind Energy Center in California is the world's largest wind farm at 1320 megawatt (MW) capacity.[7] It consists of 490 wind turbines manufactured by General Electric, and Vestas. In 2012 it surpassed the Roscoe Wind Farm in Texas.[23] [24]

The Fowler Ridge Wind Farm in Benton County, Indiana has generating capacity of 600 MW total. The first phase of the project consisted of 222 wind turbines, installed 400 MW of capacity. Phase 2, completed in 2009, installed an additional 200 MW of capacity.[25]

National trends

U.S. Wind Generation Capacity by Year
Megawatts of Installed Generating Capacity
since 2000[26][27]
U.S. Wind Generation by Year
Thousand Megawatthours Generated
since 2000[11][28]

Wind power has increased dramatically over the past few years. In 2010, however, new construction was about half of the previous year due to various factors, including the financial crisis, and recession. In 2013 there was a 92% reduction in installed capacity compared to 2012, due to the late extension of the PTC [1] The graph at left shows the growth in installed wind generation capacity in the United States based on data from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.[29][30] In 2008, installed capacity in the U.S. increased by 50% over the prior year. The world average growth rate that year was 28.8%.[31]

As of 2014, the wind industry in the USA is able to produce more power at lower cost by using taller wind turbines with longer blades, capturing the faster winds at higher elevations. This has opened up new opportunities and in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, the price of power from wind turbines built 300 feet to 400 feet above the ground can now compete with conventional fossil fuels like coal. Prices have fallen to about 4 cents per kilowatt-hour in some cases and utilities have been increasing the amount of wind energy in their portfolio, saying it is their cheapest option.[32]

The capacity factor is the ratio of power actually produced divided by the nameplate capacity of the turbines. The overall average capacity factor for wind generation in the US increased from 31.7% in 2008, to 32.3% in 2013.[33]

Wind generation potential

Map of US wind resource potential. Color codes indicate wind power density class.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the contiguous United States has the potential for 10,459 GW of onshore wind power.[34][35] The capacity could generate 37 petawatt-hours (PW·h) annually, an amount nine times larger than current total U.S. electricity consumption.[36] The U.S. also has large wind resources in Alaska,[37] and Hawaii.[38]

The U.S. Department of Energy’s 2008 report 20% Wind Energy by 2030[39] envisioned that wind power could supply 20% of all U.S. electricity, which included a contribution of 4% to the nation’s total electricity from offshore wind power.[40] In order to achieve this, however, significant advances in cost, performance and reliability are needed, based on a 2011 report from a coalition of researchers from universities, industry, and government, supported by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.[41] Obtaining 20% from wind requires about 305 GW of wind turbines, an increase of 16 GW/year after 2018, or an average increase of 14.6%/year, and transmission line improvements.[39]

In addition to the large onshore wind resources, the U.S. has large offshore wind power potential,[42] with another NREL report released in September 2010 showing that the U.S. has 4,150 GW of potential offshore wind power nameplate capacity, an amount 4 times that of the country's 2008 installed capacity from all sources, of 1,010 GW.[43][44]

State trends

Trends of wind electrical generation in the top five states, 1990-2013 (US EIA data)

In 2012, electricity generation from wind power was 10 percent or more in nine U.S. states: Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, and South Dakota, .[45] Iowa and South Dakota lead with wind power making up nearly a quarter of their electricity generation.[45] A total of 39 states and Puerto Rico now have installed at least some utility-scale wind power.[1]


A wind turbine blade on I-35 near Elm Mott, an increasingly common sight in Texas
In 2010 Texas surpassed the 10,000 MW mark with the addition of over 600 MW of generating capacity.[46] Texas has many wind farms which together total an installed capacity of 12,355 MW.[1] At the end of 2013 Texas had over 7,000 MW under construction.[1] The Roscoe Wind Farm in Roscoe, Texas, Texas's largest wind farm with 627 wind turbines and a total installed capacity of 781.5 MW, surpassed the nearby 735.5 MW Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center. It is located about 200 miles (320 km) west of Fort Worth and the wind farm area spans parts of four Texas counties.[47][48]
Large wind farms in Texas[49][50]
Wind farm Installed
capacity (MW)
Buffalo Gap Wind Farm 523 Vestas Taylor / Nolan
Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm 662 GE Energy / Siemens Sterling / Coke
Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center 735 GE Energy / Siemens Taylor / Nolan
Lone Star Wind Farm 400 Gamesa Shackelford / Callahan
Panther Creek Wind Farm 458 GE Energy Howard / …
Papalote Creek Wind Farm 380[51] Siemens San Patricio
Peñascal Wind Farm 404 Mitsubishi Kenedy
Roscoe Wind Farm 781[52] Mitsubishi Nolan
Sweetwater Wind Farm 585 GE Energy / Siemens / Mitsubishi Nolan

Expansion of wind power capacity will help Texas meet its renewable energy goal of 5,000 MW of new power from renewable sources by 2015.[53]


Wind power in California has doubled in capacity since 2002. With a total of nearly 4,000 megawatts installed, as of the end of 2011, wind energy now supplies about 5% of California’s total electricity needs, or enough to power more than 400,000 households. In 2011, 921.3 megawatts were installed. Most of that activity occurred in the Tehachapi area of Kern County, with some big projects in Solano, Contra Costa and Riverside counties as well. After 2013, California now ranks second nationwide in terms of capacity, behind Texas with a capacity of 5,830 MW.[1]

Large portions of California's wind output, are located in three primary regions: Alta Wind Energy Center, is also located within the Tehachapi Pass region.[54]

Large wind farms in California
Name Location Capacity (MW) Status Ref
Altamont Pass Wind Farm Alameda County 576 Operational [55]
Alta Wind Energy Center Kern County 1320 Operational [7]
San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm Riverside County 615 Operational [55]
Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm Kern County 705 Operational [55]
The majority of the San Jacinto Mountains to the south. (The farm continues over the hills to the north along California State Route 62 and is not visible from this vantagepoint). The layout includes a variety of large modern and older smaller turbine designs


State wind generation percentages for 2013.

Iowa had 5,178 megawatts (MW) of generation capacity at the end of 2013, third only to Texas and California.[1] Wind power accounted for almost 25 percent of the state’s electricity generation during 2012.[56] Since Iowa adopted a renewable energy standard in 1983, the wind power industry has generated almost $5 billion in investment. The state's largest windfarm is the 443.9 MW Rolling Hills Wind Farm in southwestern Iowa which was completed in December 2011.[57]


Oklahoma has one of the best resources in the United States. Bergey Windpower, a leading manufacturer of small wind turbines is located in Oklahoma. Programs leading to careers in the wind power industry are provided at tech schools, community colleges and universities in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative supports the development of wind power in the state.[58]


Wind power capacity density by state at end of 2013.

Wind power has been supported by a renewable portfolio standard,[59] passed in 2007, and strengthened in 2009, which requires 10% renewable energy from electric companies by 2010 and 25% by 2025. Illinois has the potential for installing up to an estimated 249,882 MW of wind generation capacity at a hub height of 80 meters.[60]


In 2012, Kansas saw a large number of wind projects completed making it among the largest and fastest growing wind energy markets. Some 1441 MW of new capacity was added bringing the total to 2712 MW.[26][61] Kansas has high potential capacity for wind power, second behind Texas. The most recent estimates are that Kansas has a potential for 950 GW of wind power capacity. Kansas could generate 3,900 TW·h of electricity each year, which represents more than all the electricity generated from coal, natural gas and nuclear combined in the United States in 2011.[62]

Commercialization of wind power

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory projects that the levelized cost of wind power in the U.S. will decline about 25% from 2012 to 2030.[63]

Industry trends

Since 2005 many turbine manufacturing leaders have opened U.S. facilities; of the top 10 global manufacturers in 2007, seven – Vestas, GE Energy, Gamesa, Suzlon, Siemens, Acciona, and Nordex – have an American manufacturing presence.[64][65][66] REpower is another manufacturer with notable usage in the United States.[67]

Plans for 30 new manufacturing facilities were announced in 2008, and the wind industry expects to see a continued shift towards domestic manufacturing in the coming years. In total, 70 manufacturing facilities have begun production, been expanded, or announced since January 2007.[64]

As of April 2009, over 100 companies are producing components for wind turbines, employing thousands of workers in the manufacture of parts as varied as towers, composite blades, bearings and gears. Many existing companies in traditional manufacturing states have retooled to enter the wind industry. Their manufacturing facilities are spread across 40 states, employing workers from the Southeast to the Steel Belt, to the Great Plains and on to the Pacific Northwest.[64]

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is working with six leading wind turbine manufacturers towards 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.[39][68]

Wind Powering America

Wind Powering America (WPA) is an initiative of the United States Department of Energy (DOE) that seeks to increase the use of wind energy throughout the United States. WPA collaborates with key state and regional stakeholders, including farmers, ranchers, Native Americans, rural electric cooperatives, consumer-owned utilities, and schools to break down barriers associated with wind energy development.

Throughout its history, WPA has focused on states with strong potential for wind energy generation but with few operational projects. WPA provides fair and unbiased information about the challenges, benefits, and impacts of wind technology implementation. This information allows policymakers, organizations, and citizens to make educated and informed decisions about wind energy implementation in their communities.

Other government involvement

Kaheawa Wind Farm near Maalaea, Maui, with 20 GE Energy 1.5 MW wind turbines
The US Energy Information Administration projects the growth of wind power to slow appreciably after 2013 if incentives are not continued.

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 built 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.[69]

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.[70]

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.[71] This lack of capacity forced wind turbines to be shut down at times and reduced wind power generation in Texas by 17% in 2009.[72]

In 2010, the DOE awarded $60 million for a study of transmission requirements.[73] Beginning in 2006, the DOE is required to provide a transmission congestion report once every three years.[74]

Recent U.S. policy has generally been to provide federal production tax credit (PTC) of around $20 per MW·h generated for the first ten years of operation for wind energy sold. Renewable portfolio standards mandating a certain percentage of electricity sales come from renewable energy sources, which are in place in about half of the states, also have boosted the development of the wind industry.[75]

The inability of the Congress to formulate a long term renewable energy policy has been a detriment to the development of wind power. Each year the tax credit has expired, wind power development has slowed the next year as investors wait for better conditions. Each year it is renewed development has expanded. The previous policy expired at the end of 2012, bringing wind power development activity to a near halt. A short term, one year policy was enacted at the beginning of 2013 which provides a tax credit to projects under construction by the end of 2013 and completed before the end of 2014.{cn}[9] The PTC was first introduced in 1992.[76] When it was allowed to expire, development dropped 93%, 73%, and 77% the following year.

Siting considerations

Landowners typically receive $3,000 to $5,000 per year in rental income from each wind turbine, while farmers continue to grow crops or graze cattle up to the foot of the turbines.[8]

There is 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 royalties[77] from the local utility for siting a single, large, advanced-design wind turbine.[78][79][80][81][82]

Landscape and ecological issues may be significant for some wind farm proposals,[83] and environmental issues are a consideration in site selection.[84]

Worldwide experience has shown that community consultation and direct involvement of the general public in wind farm projects has helped to increase community approval,[85] and some wind farms overseas have become tourist attractions.[86]

Offshore wind power

As of 2014, the United States still had no operational offshore wind power facilities. Development is hindered by relatively high cost compared to onshore facilities. A number of projects are under development with some at advanced stages of development.[87] The United States, though, has very large offshore wind energy resources due to strong, consistent winds off the long U.S. coastline.[40]

The 2011 NREL report, Large-Scale Offshore Wind Power in the United States, analyzes the current state of the offshore wind energy industry. According to the report, offshore wind resource development would help the country to:[88]

  • Achieve 20% of its electricity from wind by 2030, as offshore wind could supply 54 gigawatts of wind capacity to the nation’s electrical grid, increasing energy security, reducing air and water pollution, and stimulating the domestic economy.
  • Provide clean power to its coastal demand centers, as wind power emits no carbon dioxide CO
    and there are plentiful winds off the coasts of 26 states.
  • Revitalize its manufacturing sector, generating an "estimated $200 billion in new economic activity, and create more than 43,000 permanent, well-paid technical jobs in manufacturing, construction, engineering, operations and maintenance".

NREL’s report concludes that "the development of the nation’s offshore wind resources can provide many potential benefits, and with effective research, policies, and commitment, offshore wind energy can play a vital role in future U.S. energy markets".[88]

Coastal residents have opposed offshore wind farms because of fears about impacts on marine life, the environment, electricity rates, aesthetics, and recreation such as fishing and boating. However, residents also cite improved electricity rates, air quality, and job creation as positive impacts they would expect from wind farms.[89][90] Because the bases of offshore turbines function as artificial reefs, studies have shown that after the initial disturbance of construction, local fish and shellfish are positively affected.[89][91] Because wind turbines can be positioned at some distance from shore, impacts to recreation and fishing can be managed by careful planning of wind farm locations.[89]

In June 2009, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued five exploratory leases for wind power production on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore from New Jersey and Delaware. The leases authorize data gathering activities, allowing for the construction of meteorological towers on the Outer Continental Shelf from six to 18 miles (29 km) offshore.[92] Four areas are being considered.[93] On February 7, 2011, Salazar and Stephen Chu announced a national strategy to have offshore wind power of 10 GW in 2020, and 54 GW in 2030.[94]

Projects are under development in areas of the East Coast, Great Lakes, and Gulf coast.[87]

Cape Wind

The Cape Wind Project is an approved[95][96] 468 MW offshore wind farm, on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, proposed by a private developer, Cape Wind Associates.[97] If the project moves forward on schedule, it may become the first offshore wind energy project in United States coastal waters.[98] The project has been fought by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, formed in 2001 to oppose the proposal. The project is expected to cost $2.5 billion.[99]

The cost of the Cape Wind project, is estimated to be $2.6 billion.[99] As a comparison, the cost Mid American Energy's 2014-2015 expansion of projects in Iowa (totaling 1050 MW capacity) was stated to be $1.9 billion.[100] The expected capacity factors of the two expansions projects are very similar (38% versus 36%). In this case, often cited improved capacity factors for offshore wind are virtually non-existent.

Atlantic Coast

Massachusetts state officials picked Deepwater Wind to build a $1.5-billion, 385-megawatt wind farm in federal waters off Block Island. The 100-turbine project could provide 1.3 terawatt-hours (TW·h) of electricity per year – 15 percent of all electricity used in the state.[101][102][103] In 2009, Deepwater signed an agreement with National Grid to sell the power from a $200-million, 30-MW wind farm off Block Island, at an initial price of 24.4 ¢/kW·h.[104]

New Jersey, in 2007, awarded a $4.4 million contract to conduct an 18-month Ocean/Wind Power Ecological Baseline Study, becoming the first state to sponsor an ocean and wind power study before allowing renewable energy developers to study and build off its shores. The study focused on a designated area off the coast to determine the current distribution, abundance and migratory patterns of avian species, fish, marine resources and sea turtle use of the existing ecological resources.[105] In 2008, new federal rules greatly expanded the territory offshore wind parks can be built. Previously, projects were only allowed in shallow state waters within 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) of shore. The edge of U.S. territory is about 200 nautical miles (370 km) out. Increased distance from the coast diminishes their visibility. Waters off the coast of the United States are deeper than in Europe, requiring different designs.[106] In June 2010, the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection released the results of the study which stated that the effects of developing offshore windfarms would be negligible.[107][108][109] Soon after, the New Jersey Legislature created and the governor signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act. The law provides for financial incentives and tax credits to support offshore wind projects. It also authorized a new Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Certificate (OREC) program and rules that developers must follow to obtain approval and receive ORECs.[110][111][112]

Atlantic Wind Connection

Atlantic Wind Connection is a proposed electrical transmission backbone to be built off the Atlantic Coast of the United States to serve off-shore wind farms. The transmission line, proposed by Trans-Elect Development Company, would deliver power ashore in southern Virginia, Delaware, southern New Jersey and northern New Jersey. As a first of its kind project, it poses significant risks of encountering unexpected technological challenges and cost overruns.[113] Such an offshore backbone is an element in the national electricity strategy.[94]

Bechtel has been selected as the EPC contractor and Alstom as technical advisor for the first phase of the development for the project.[114] Google and Good Energies, an investment firm, are the major investors in the $5 billion project.[113]

Wind energy meteorology

Upper: the propagation of transient waves. Lower: the time and spatial variation of the related capacity factor values (CF) at 100m. The power curves and technical parameters for the GE 2.5 MW turbines is used to calculate the instantaneous capacity factor.[115]

Winds in the Central plains region of the U.S. are variable on both short (minutes) and long (days) time scales. Variations in wind speed result in variations in power output from wind farms, which poses difficulties incorporating wind power into an integrated power system. Wind turbines are driven by boundary layer winds, those that occur near the surface of the earth, at around 300 feet. Boundary layer winds are controlled by wind in the higher free atmosphere and have turbulence due to interaction with surface features such as trees, hills, and buildings. Short term or high frequency variations are due to this turbulence in the boundary layer.

Long term variations are due to the passage of transient waves in the atmosphere, with a characteristic time scale of several days. The transient waves that influence wind in the Central U.S. are large scale and this results in the power output from wind farms in the region being correlated and not independent. [115]

Environmental regulations

The US federal government has jurisdiction to prevent bird and bat deaths by wind turbines, under the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Under the 2009 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Interior Department could issue permits to allow "non-purposeful take" for activities where eagle deaths were considered unavoidable; however, as of December 2013, no take permits had been issued to wind energy developers.[116]

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has published voluntary guidelines for design and siting of wind turbines to minimize bird and bat deaths. Interim guidelines were published in 2003, and the latest version in 2012. The document recognizes that even the best management practices may not prevent wind turbine bird deaths in violation of federal law, but stated: “However, if a violation occurs the Service will consider a developer’s documented efforts to communicate with the Service and adhere to the Guidelines.”[117]

In 2013, the Obama administration was accused of having a double standard to protect the wind industry from Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act prosecutions, while vigorously pursuing violations by oil companies and owners of power lines. The administration refused to divulge the number of raptor deaths reported to it by wind companies, saying that to do so would reveal trade secrets. The government also ordered federal law enforcement field agents not to pursue bird-death prosecutions against wind companies without prior approval from Washington. The policy was said to be an environmental trade-off to promote renewable energy.[118]

In November 2013, the federal government obtained its first criminal conviction of a wind power operator for killing protected birds in violation of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Duke Energy plead guilty, and was fined $1 million, for the deaths of 160 birds, including 14 golden eagles, at two wind farms in Wyoming. The Justice Department charged that Duke had designed and sited the turbines knowing that they would kill birds; Duke noted that it had self-reported the bird deaths, and that US Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines for reducing bird deaths by wind turbines had not been issued when the turbines were built. After they were charged, Duke implemented a radar detection system, at a cost of $600,000 per year, designed to turn off turbines when approached by large birds; the company noted that the system was working, as no golden eagle deaths had been observed in more than a year of operation since the radar was installed.[119][120]

In December 2013 the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would issue 30-year permits to wind energy projects to allow for eagle deaths; previously, permits had been available for only 5 years, but none were issued to wind projects. Under the 30-year permits, wind power developers would be required to report eagle deaths, and the permits would be reviewed every 5 years. The measure was intended to remove what was seen as legal uncertainty discouraging wind energy investments. The government said that an environmental review was not needed for the change, because it was only an administrative change.[116] The new regulation was welcomed by the American Wind Energy Association, which said that wind power caused less than two percent of human-caused eagle fatalities, and pointed out that the rules would require extensive mitigation and monitoring of eagle deaths.[121] The extension of eagle taking permits from 5 to 30 years was opposed by a number of conservation groups, including the American Bird Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, and the Humane Society of the United States.[122][123]


U.S. Wind Generation (GWh, Million kWh)
Year Total % of total Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1990 2,789
1991 2,951
1992 2,888
1993 3,006
1994 3,447
1995 3,164
1996 3,234
1997 3,288
1998 3,026
1999 4,488
2000 5,593
2001 6,737
2002 10,354 0.27% 811 714 852 1,024 1,078 1,126 890 977 736 734 656 755
2003 10,729 0.28% 558 692 1,008 1,099 891 964 917 779 824 909 995 1,095
2004 14,144 0.36% 999 1,022 1,291 1,295 1,702 1,397 1,164 1,051 1,090 1,029 932 1,172
2005 14,597 0.36% 899 783 1,235 1,408 1,494 1,539 1,171 918 1,275 1,256 1,363 1,257
2006 26,589 0.65% 2,383 1,922 2,359 2,472 2,459 2,052 1,955 1,655 1,879 2,442 2,540 2,472
2007 32,143 0.77% 2,459 2,541 3,061 3,194 2,858 2,395 1,928 2,446 2,641 3,056 2,705 2,859
2008 55,363 1.34% 4,273 3,852 4,782 5,225 5,340 5,140 4,008 3,264 3,111 4,756 4,994 6,616
2009 73,886 1.87% 5,951 5,852 7,099 7,458 6,262 5,599 4,955 5,464 4,651 6,814 6,875 6,906
2010 94,652 2.29% 6,854 5,432 8,589 9,764 8,698 8,049 6,724 6,686 7,106 7,944 9,748 9,059
2011 120,177 2.93% 8,550 10,452 10,545 12,422 11,772 10,985 7,489 7,474 6,869 10,525 12,439 10,656
2012 140,822 3.48% 13,632 11,052 14,026 12,709 12,541 11,972 8,822 8,469 8,790 12,636 11,649 14,524
2013 167,665 4.13% 14,633 13,907 15,643 17,294 16,264 13,766 11,146 9,593 11,709 13,720 15,888 14,100
2014 133,495 4.28% 17,989 14,001 17,779 18,747 15,532 15,691 12,096 10,187 11,473
2014 % of total 4.77% 4.33% 5.36% 6.32% 4.80% 4.39% 3.14% 2.66% 3.38%

See also


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