Today in Energy

August 2, 2011

Wind generating capacity is distributed unevenly across the United States

graph of Wind generating capacity is distributed unevenly across the United States, as described in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration based on the Ventyx Energy Velocity Suite.
Note: Individual utility-scale wind turbines range from less than 1 MW to a few MW in capacity. Most circles on the map above represent multiple turbines connected to the grid at a single location.

The highest concentration of wind turbines in the United States is in the Great Plains states, where the best conditions for onshore wind power generation exist. The siting of wind turbines is dependent on the surrounding climate, as turbines are best utilized in windy areas (see wind resource map below).

However, wind capacity also exists in other areas of the United States, especially in places where local requirements such as Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) (see Database of State Incentives for Renewables and & Efficiency) support wind capacity expansion.

Extremely low wind-generating capacity in the Southeastern United States reflects both low average wind speeds and the lack of wind-focused, State-level RPS programs. Further, this region has a large existing inventory of relatively new natural gas combined-cycle plants that are not fully utilized.

In 2010, the United States had 38 gigawatts of installed wind capacity, which generated 2.3% of the nation's electricity, according to preliminary EIA data.

map of annual average wind speeds at 80 meters, as described in the article text
Source: AWS Truewind, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy
Note: A larger version of this map is available. The map displays the predicted mean annual wind speeds at 80 meters above the ground surface.