U.S. Energy Information Administration logo
Skip to sub-navigation

Wind explained Where wind power is harnessed

Wind power plants require careful planning

Operating a wind power plant is more complex than simply erecting wind turbines in a windy area. Wind power plant owners carefully plan where to position wind turbines and consider how fast and how often the wind blows at the site.

Good places for wind turbines are where the annual average wind speed is at least 9 miles per hour (mph)—or 4.0 meters per second (m/s)—for small wind turbines and 13 mph (5.8 m/s) for utility-scale turbines. Favorable sites include the tops of smooth, rounded hills; open plains and water; and mountain gaps that funnel and intensify wind. Wind speeds are generally higher the greater the distance above the earth's surface. Large wind turbines are placed on towers that range from about 500 feet to as high as 900 feet tall.

Map of wind resources in U.S.

Map of U.S. wind resources

Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy (public domain)

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Wind speeds vary hourly and seasonally

Wind speeds generally change throughout the day and from season to season. For example, in Tehachapi, California, where numerous wind turbines are located, the wind blows more frequently from April through October than it does in the winter months, and the wind is usually strongest in the afternoon. These fluctuations are a result of the extreme heat of the Mojave Desert during summer months. As the hot air over the desert rises, the cooler, denser air above the Pacific Ocean rushes through the Tehachapi mountain pass to take its place. In Montana, strong winter winds channeled through Rocky Mountain valleys create more intense winds during the winter.

Fortunately, the seasonal variations in wind speeds in California and Montana match the electricity demand of consumers in those states. In California, people use more electricity in the afternoon and during the summer. In Montana, people use more electricity, in general, during the winter.

Most U.S. wind electricity generation capacity is in the middle of the country

In 2023, about 10% (425 billion kilowatthours) of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation was from wind energy projects in 41 states.1 The five states with the most electricity generation from wind in 2023 were Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Illinois. These states combined produced about 59% of total U.S. wind electricity generation in 2023.2

Monthly and annual U.S. national and state electricity generation data are available in the Electricity Data Browser, and hourly generation data by energy source for the Lower 48 states by region are available in the Hourly Electric Grid Monitor.

U.S. offshore wind energy is expected to increase substantially

The waters off the coasts of the United States have significant potential for electricity generation from wind energy. At the end of 2023, the United States had two operating offshore wind energy projects: the Block Island wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island, with 30 megawatts (MW) of electricity generation capacity, and the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project, with 12 MW of generation capacity. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has executed leases and grants for offshore wind energy development. Wind projects in state and federal waters off the U.S. East Coast are in various stages of planning and development. As of December 2023, wind project developers reported plans for about 5,251 MW of nameplate wind electricity generation capacity in waters off the coasts of Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia and about 20 MW in Ohio state waters on Lake Erie.3

European countries and China lead the world in offshore wind electricity generation capacity. Many other countries have and are developing offshore wind energy projects.

Picture of wind turbines in the ocean.

Wind turbines in the ocean

Source: Stock photography (copyrighted)

International wind power is growing

World wind electricity generation has also increased substantially in recent years. In 1990, 16 countries generated about 3.6 billion kWh of wind electricity.4 In 2010, 100 countries generated about 339 billion kWh, and in 2022, 127 countries (includes Puerto Rico) generated about 2,904 billion kWh of wind electricity.

The top five countries in wind electricity generation and their percentage shares of total world wind electricity generation in 2022 were:

  • China–36%
  • United States–21%
  • Germany–6%
  • Brazil–4%
  • United Kingdom–4%

1 Utility-scale facilities (power plants) have at least one megawatt (1,000 kilowatts) of electric generation capacity.
2 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly, February 2024, preliminary data.
3 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory, December 2022.
4 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International energy statistics, Wind electricity generation.

Last updated: June 12, 2024.