Wind energy development is growing rapidly in the United States, with utility scale projects installed in 37 states as of 2010. The U.S. wind energy industry had a record setting year in 2009 with the installation of 10,000 megawatts (MW) to bring the cumulative capacity to over 35,000 MW by the end of that year. Due to the lack of national long term policies supporting wind energy, the installations for 2010 dropped down to near 2007 levels with a total of approximately 5000 MW installed. Despite this drop in installations, there are over 40,000 MW of wind energy projects in the U.S. as of the end of 2010 – making the U.S. second only to China in total installed capacity.
Currently, wind energy accounts for about 2% of the U.S. electricity production, but the potential is much larger. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that the U.S. onshore wind potential is over 10,000 gigawatts (GW) in areas with capacity factors at or above 30 percent. For offshore wind, the Department of Interior estimates that over 4,000 GW of offshore wind potential exist in the oceans and Great Lakes. Only a portion of this potential will be necessary for wind energy to supply a substantial portion of the U.S.’s electricity needs. The Department of Energy’s 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report determined that it would require approximately 300 GW of wind capacity, including 54 GW of offshore wind, for wind to reach 20% of the U.S. electricity needs in the year 2030.
Aside from the many environmental benefits of wind energy – including improved air quality and water savings from the energy sector – communities across the country are excited about wind energy’s economic development potential. As of 2009, the wind industry supported 85,000 jobs over all 50 states and by 2010 there were nearly 400 American manufacturing facilities for wind energy components.
- Onshore Wind
- Offshore Wind
- NC Wind Working Group
- Guide to Wind Energy in North Carolina
- Wind Energy Resources
- American Wind Energy Association U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report – Year Ending 2009
- Global Wind Energy Council Global Wind Statistics 2010
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory Estimates of Windy Land Area and Wind
Energy Potential by State
Wind Energy Facts and Resources:
- Wind Energy Basics from the Department of Energy
- 1 MW of installed wind energy can produce enough electricity for 275-300 homes.
- 1 gigawatt = 1000 megawatts = 1000 kilowatts
- 1999-2010 wind energy installation maps from Wind Powering America
- North Carolina was the first state in the southeast to create a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) wind energy page