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3x More Wind Energy Potential than Previously Thought

In 1993, based on wind energy technology of the time, Pacific Northwest Laboratory predicted that 10,777,000 GW hours of electricity per year could be produced from wind on US lands. Now, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) predicts that the US could generate about three times that much — 37,000,000 GW hours of electricity per year — due to technological improvements.

How does that compare to total electricity consumption? It is nine times total US electricity consumption, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

These findings are based on the first full analysis of US wind power capacity in 17 years, conducted recently by NREL and AWS Truewind.


US wind power has increased a ton in the past year, but it is still minuscule compared to its potential. The US added nearly 10GW of new capacity in 2009, but at the end of the year, with a capacity of about 35GW, it was still only reaching 3.5% of its total potential capacity.

If we reached our potential, wind power “could produce 364.9 quadrillion btus, the energy equivalent of all proven oil and natural gas reserves in the US as estimated by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), ” according to the AWEA.

Reaching 100% of our potential is, of course, an ideal, not a realistic option, but achieving significantly more than 3.5% is certainly something we can expect and climb towards.

Additionally, this total potential capacity is only for on-shore wind. It doesn’t include the vast potential of off-shore wind power — another 908GW according to the DOE.

Policy Recommendation?

Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, says it clearly:

“This new analysis confirms that America is blessed with vast wind resources that can energize our economy, create jobs, and avoid carbon for years to come—if we give ourselves the policy tools to do so, including a strong national Renewable Electricity Standard with aggressive, binding near- and long-term targets. A national Renewable Electricity Standard would not only ensure that we tap our nation’s vast wind resources, but create thousands of new American jobs today, manufacturing the 8,000 component parts that go into a modern wind turbine. The wind resource is there, vast and inexhaustible, waiting for us. Meanwhile, the economy can’t wait, job creation can’t wait, and America can’t wait. We need Congress to act now and pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill that includes a strong national Renewable Electricity Standard.”

That’s what we need.

Image Credit: Chad Johnson via flickr under a CC license

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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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