How much of U.S. electricity supply comes from wind, and how does that compare with other countries?

Last Updated: March 4, 2016

The United States is the world's top producer of electricity generated by wind, a title it has held since 2008. U.S. wind power totaled nearly 182 million megawatthours (MWh) during 2014, equal to 4.4% of U.S. electricity generation and more than three times the wind power generated in the United States in 2008. The top five global producers of electricity from wind also include China, Germany, Spain, and India. Although the United States generates more electricity from wind than any another country, China has the largest amount of installed wind generating capacity.

Why wind power has increased

A major contributor to increasing U.S. wind power in recent years has been the federal production tax credit. The current version of the tax credit (extended by Congress in December 2015) pays producers for every kilowatthour (kWh) of electricity they generate from wind. The tax credit goes to wind power projects that begin construction by the end of 2019, with the value of the credit declining from 2.4 cents per kWh to 1 cent per kWh during the first 10 years the turbine is in operation.

The amount of U.S. electricity generated from wind has also increased because of state renewable portfolio standards that require a percentage of electricity supply in the state to come from wind power and from other renewable energy sources.

Electricity generated from wind is expected to continue growing

The amount of electricity generated from wind in the United States is expected to continue to grow. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects U.S. wind power generation will increase by an average of 2.4% a year through 2040.

Although solar energy is expected to be the fastest-growing source of renewable electricity generation in the United States, growing at a rate of 6.8% annually from 2013 to 2040, wind power will account for the largest absolute increase among sources of renewable energy used for electricity generation.

U.S. wind generation capacity is expected to increase from less than 60 gigawatts (GW) in 2013 to 110 GW in 2040. One GW of wind power capacity can provide enough electricity for between 750,000 and 1 million U.S. homes, depending on the house size, location, and time of day. Wind is expected to be the top source of renewable electricity generation capacity additions through 2040, and wind is expected to surpass hydropower's share of actual U.S. generation in 2038.

Chart on Renewable electricity generating capacity by energy source, including end-use capacity in the AEO 2014 Reference case, 2012-40

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2015

U.S. states leading in electricity generated from wind

In 2014, EIA data shows that 39 states had some electricity generation from wind facilities with a generating capacity of at least 1 megawatt (MW). Among those 39 states, 9 states increased their electricity generation from wind by more than 10% above their 2013 generation levels.

In 2014, the five states that generated the most electricity from wind were:

  • Texas (40.0 million MWh)
  • Iowa (16.3 million MWh)
  • California (13.0 million MWh)
  • Oklahoma (11.9 million MWh)
  • Kansas (10.8 million MWh)

The five states that had the largest share of their total electricity generated from wind in 2014 were:

  • Iowa (28.7%)
  • Kansas (21.8%)
  • South Dakota (21%)
  • Idaho (18.5%)
  • Oklahoma (17.0%)

Wind power plays a larger role in other countries

Although the United States is the world's largest producer of electricity from wind, only 4.4% of total U.S. electricity generation was from wind in 2014. Other countries, particularly those in Europe, generate a larger share of their electricity from wind. In 2014, the countries that had the largest portion of their electricity generation from wind were:

  • Denmark (39%)
  • Portugal (24%)
  • Spain (20%)
  • Ireland (18%)
  • Germany (10%)

Although there are currently no operating offshore wind projects in the United States, offshore wind turbine technology has grown steadily in Europe, and, to a lesser extent, in Asia. Europe accounts for more than 75% of installed global offshore wind turbine capacity. Compared with western Europe, the United States is estimated to have more abundant and favorable onshore wind resources, which are largely located in areas with low population density.

So far, the high cost of domestic offshore wind projects has made them less attractive economically in the United States, despite the availability of federal tax incentives and state policies to promote use of renewable energy. Building and maintaining offshore wind technology is expensive compared with onshore wind projects because of challenges such as transporting equipment and workers to the sites, securing turbines to the seafloor, and operating in fewer periods of fair weather. The harsher offshore environment not only makes it difficult and more costly to perform maintenance, but it also increases the frequency that maintenance has to take place.

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Did you know?

U.S. wind turbine power generation performance varies throughout the year as a result of highly seasonal wind patterns. Nationally, wind plant performance tends to be highest during the spring and lowest during the mid- to late-summer, while performance during the winter (November through February) is near the annual median. However, this pattern can vary considerably across regions, mostly based on local atmospheric and geographic conditions. As a result, a wind plant's capacity factor—a measure of the plant's generation as a percentage of its maximum generating capacity—is closely related to available wind resources, or average wind speed. In general, wind plant capacity factors tend to be higher during windier periods of the year.

U.S. monthly median wind plant capacity factors for 2001-2013

Did you know?

In July 2015, American offshore wind developer, Deepwater Wind, installed the foundation for the first offshore wind farm in the United States. The project will be located three miles southeast of Block Island, Rhode Island. With five turbines totaling 30 megawatts of generation capacity, the Block Island Wind Farm is expected to come online in 2016.

Offshore wind capacity map