Clean Power

Published on August 25th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor


10 Facts About Wind Power

August 25th, 2014 by  

Department Of Energy.
Liz Hartman.

This is a guest blog by Liz Hartman, Communications Team Lead for Wind and Water Power at the Department of Energy (DOE). The blog was originally posted on the DOE’s website after the DOE announced the release of its latest annual Market Technologies report and is part of the DOE’s “Top Things you didn’t know about…” series.  It has been reposted in its entirety, however, there is one correction that we have made as a footnote.

10. Human civilizations have harnessed wind power for thousands of years. Early forms of windmills used wind to crush grain or pump water. Now, modern wind turbines use the wind to create electricity. Learn how a wind turbine works.

9. Today’s wind turbines are much more complicated machines than the traditional prairie windmill. A wind turbine has as many as 8,000 different components.

8. Wind turbines are big. A wind turbine blade can be up to 260 feet long, and a turbine tower can be over 328 feet tall — taller than the Statue of Liberty.

7. Higher wind speeds mean more electricity, and wind turbines are getting taller to reach higher altitudes where it’s even windier. See the Energy Department’s wind resource maps to find average wind speeds in your state or hometown.

6. Most of the components of wind turbines installed in the United States are manufactured here. There are more than 500 manufacturing facilities located throughout the United States, and the U.S. wind energy industry currently employs more than 50,000 people.

5. The technical resource potential of the winds above U.S. coastal waters is enough to provide more than 4,000 gigawatts of electricity, or approximately four times the generating capacity of the current U.S. electric power system. Although not all of these resources will be developed, this represents a major opportunity to provide power to highly populated coastal cities. See what the Energy Department is doing to develop offshore wind in the United States and learn more about the ongoing Offshore Wind Advanced Technology Demonstration projects.

4. The United States generates more wind energy than any other country except China*, and wind has accounted for 33 percent of all newly installed U.S. electricity generation capacity over the last seven years.

3. The United States’ wind power capacity reached more than 61 gigawatts by the end of 2013. That’s enough electricity to power nearly 16 million homes annually — more than the total number of homes in the entire state of California — and represents nearly a 20-fold increase in capacity since 2000.

2. Wind energy is affordable. Wind prices for power contracts signed in 2013 and levelized wind prices (the price the utility pays to buy power from a wind farm) are as low as 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour in some areas of the country. This is the lowest ever price recorded by the Energy Department’s annual Wind Technologies Market Report.

1. Wind has the potential to supply the country with abundant amounts of clean, renewable energy, but continued support for favorable clean energy policies, such as the Production Tax Credit, is critical to achieving this target. To set the stage for future growth, the Energy Department is developing a new Wind Vision for the future of wind power research, development and deployment throughout the United States.

*#4 on this list confuses generation and capacity. While China has more electricity generation capacity than the U.S., the American wind power fleet is number one in the world in terms of electricity generation. In 2013, the U.S. generated 167 billion kWh in 2013 while China generated 134.9 billion kWh according to official statistics.

Source: Department of Energy.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , , ,

About the Author

is many, many people. We publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people. :D

  • Myles Shields


  • Safra

    No Im not

  • Wonderful article. Thanks, Liz.

  • Matt

    If for no other reason than to market them in developing world. Were the lower cost, would be considered a bigger benefit.

  • Will E

    In Holland we have windmills 400 years old still working. Wind turbines can easily produce electricity for long period with proper maintenance. 20 40 60 years, no problem.

  • jeffhre

    Yet, against a stacked deck, “every time I read an article about wind power where cost is involved the idea is that winds physical costs must beat Coal, Nuclear, NG to be a viable source of electricity,” wind has achieved this! Spread the word.

  • Bob_Wallace

    I agree. But the people who price electricity don’t. They’re happy to ignore external costs.

    What we need to do (IMHO) is educate as many people as possible about external costs. That should help harden them against fossil fuel attacks on renewable energy costs.

    If more Americans knew that we wasted hundreds of millions of dollars each day on the external cost of coal we’d move to renewables much faster.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Some European turbines are being taken down before they reach the age of 20 and replaced with taller/larger. This is due to limited onshore resources and maximizing what is available.

    Those removed turbines are being refurbished and sold to countries will more wind resources (more wind-rich land).

    Our first generation turbines such as the 30 year old ones being replaced at Altamont Pass wind farm are more likely to be scraped. That’s some old tech.

    Based on first gen performance I’d expect current tech turbines to operate at least 40 years before needing replacement. One would expect they have been designed to allow for easy replacement of the bearing surfaces and electronics.

  • Hans
    • Bob_Wallace

      Excellent! Thanks.

      Just the first two paragraphs from the first link…

      “The 100 or so inhabitants of the Isle of Gigha, off the west coast of Scotland, aren’t your typical trendsetters. Yet when this small island community spent $870,000 for three secondhand Vestas back in 2004, it became one of the first buyers to tap Europe’s blossoming market for used wind turbines.

      Now churning out enough power to meet almost all of Gigha’s annual electricity needs, the 675-kilowatt wind farm has significantly cut the island’s carbon dioxide footprint while generating an annual $150,000 profit for Gigha Renewable Energy, the locally owned company that operates the turbines. “To be honest, we bought them for financial reasons,” says Jacqui MacLeod, manager of the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust.”

      “we bought them for financial reasons”


    • Offgridman

      Thank you for finding and listing these. Understanding the tech to some extent it seemed to me that this must be happening, but to long of a to do list for researching it today.

  • Jonathan Cloud

    What about small wind and distributed generation? When can we make this as economical as the old Dutch windmills?

    • Hans

      In case of wind energy big is really better. Small wind turbines operate close to the ground or on top of buildings. Here the wind speeds are low and often turbulent. Because the power in the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed, it really pays of to have larger wind turbines on high masts.

      • Jenny Sommer

        There are ideas for utilising gusts to improve performance up to 100%.
        Upriseenergy that is.

        Other contenders for small scale wind could be portable kite generators like x-wind or enerkite but most are aiming for bigger plants or offshore… Skysails power, kitegen (plans 5GW plant for 1.5b€)

        • Hans

          Every now and then there is press release by some micro-wind start up making fantastic claims. These press releases are echoed around the web, and after a while you never hear from them again. The few that make it to production do not live up to their promises, as has been shown in field tests by scientists.

          I can recommend and article by Mike Barnard here on CT about the limitations of flying wind turbines.

          • Jenny Sommer

            I know.
            This one is actually the one that gets sort of thumb up by Mike Barnard.
            I have read most of his articles on his site.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Look at what is happening with commercial wind. Thirty years ago we were installing turbines only a fraction of the size of what is now being installed. Not that far back a 1.5 MW turbine was big. Now the common size for onshore seems to be 3 MW. A 6 MW turbine is being tested for offshore work and plans are underway for a 10 MW monster.

      Here’s how things have changed up to 2010. Small turbines just don’t produce as much electricity for dollars invested. It’s unlikely small distributed wind will ever make sense. Small turbines are valuable for niche uses.

      • jeffhre

        A 6 MW turbine is being deployed, An 8 MW is being tested for offshore work and plans are underway for a 10 MW monster.

  • Steve Grinwis

    That’s all very true. But the fact that it’s half the cost of new natural gas plants, is what I find mind blowing. No pun intended.

  • andereandre

    I tried; couldn’t find it, I believe you though.
    So maybe they keep the pole, the housing and the generator. But a modern generator is way more advanced than one from the nineties.
    I just can’t wrap my head around it how that can be economical viable.

    • Offgridman

      The way I see it is that electric motors and generators (just different applications of the same base design) were already an advanced field even thirty or forty years ago when the resurgence of wind power started. This due to the use in hydro power, submarines, even all the different household appliances and heating and cooling technology. More of the advances in the past twenty years have come from blade design (which has been carried over from the aeronautics field) and in the digital and computer controls, both of which can be applied to existing equipment.
      Properly maintained electric motors (lubrication, bearings, power supply) were able to run for 25-50 years even forty years ago when I started in the maintenance engineering field, so it makes sense to me that all this previous knowledge and tech have carried over into the wind field.
      I could be wrong in how I see it, but even Musk has commented on how the motors in the Tesla’s are similar to what Nikola designed a hundred years ago, just more complicated controls

    • jeffhre

      How is a used car economically viable – new technology is so much better right?


  • CsabaU

    Both in Denmark and Germany some >20 years old small windmills are replaced by larger windmills since they are running out of good sites. The old windmills are refurbishment and sold to for instance Irland.

  • Luc

    Would you be so kind and use not only the US customary units but also the metric system, Not all your site visitors live in the US, Myanmar or Liberia.
    By the way, how much, converted in international units, is the energy unit “household”?

    • Offgridman

      There are just as many times that the units will be metric and being an old man in the US find myself grabbing the calculator to comprehend what is being discussed.
      As for providing for households that is another confusing issue where there needs to be international standards adopted, but with this still being a relatively new industry, and the politicians liking to brag on how many homes power will be provided for, needs to be decided by some party with much more influence than this blog.

Back to Top ↑