Wind Energy Was Largest Source Of New US Electricity In 2014

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The American Wind Energy Association has commented on the US Department of Energy’s data released for 2014 this week, which showed that wind energy added “significantly more” electricity than any other resource across the year.

According to Department of Energy (DoE) Energy Information Administration (EIA) statistics, wind energy generated 4.4% of all electricity during 2014, maintaining its position as the country’s fifth largest electricity source.

Wind energy generated a total of 181,791 GWh of electricity in 2014, up 13,951 GWh over 2013 levels.

Energy sources by amount new generation in 2014


Looking at specific states, Iowa led the country, acquiring 28.% of its electricity from wind power, followed by South Dakota with 25.3%, and Kansas at 21.7%.

Top 20 States for Wind Energy as Percent of Total State Generation


By averages, wind energy provided more than 15% of electricity in a total of seven states, more than 10% across 9 states, and 5% across 19 states.

“The US is blessed with an abundant supply of wind energy,” commented Emily Williams, Deputy Director of Industry Data and Analysis for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).


“Pairing this homegrown resource with continued technology innovation has made the U.S. the home of the most productive wind turbines in the world,” Williams added, referring to the ongoing debate over whether China or the US in fact leads the world in wind energy. “Analysis released last year found the U.S. is number one in the world in wind energy production.”

“Having more clean, affordable wind power than ever is helping to keep the lights on for U.S. homes and businesses,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “We have an opportunity to have even more of the U.S. reliably powered by wind, resulting in more well-paying jobs, more benefits for consumers and cleaner air.”

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

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44 thoughts on “Wind Energy Was Largest Source Of New US Electricity In 2014

  • Interestingly some of the states with the best wind resources are using them, while others with similar resources lag behind. Most likely due to different political differences, and losing out on benefits!

    • I’m sure politics play a part, but there are a number of reasons. For example, the eastern grid has a lot more nuclear power, and so has lower night time (or low demand in general) electricity prices, than the west.

    • Nebraska is a case in point. At one point, Kansas was lagging, but now it has added much capacity. Texas is really doing the most right now. The Block Island project in Rhode Island will be US first offshore wind farm. Construction has started.

    • There are other factors as well, which are arguably more important than policy.

      New Mexico, for example, historically lacked strong grid connection to more densily populated states. That meant that wind grew far more slowly than its potential would have suggested for years (last year, a new major power line entered service). The same was true in Texas and other states.

      Then there’s the existing generation capacity. Wind makes more sense in states that have a lot of old coal capacity in need of major refurbishment than in states with a lot of hydro or modern fossil fuel power stations.

      For wind, which is mature and competitive on cost without any support, policy should focus on boring technical stuff (rapid processing of applications, support for major new powerlines,…) rather than on subsidies or tax credits. Texas in particular was quick to pick up on that.

  • Why is the bible belt completely void of wind power generators? Religion appears to be a negative correlation but, is there?

    • If you look at a US wind map where wind is measured at 80 meters (building the tower so that the hub/nacelle sits at 80 meters) the SE doesn’t have good wind resources. 80 meters has been “where we put turbines”. I think the first wind farm turbines were at 50 meters.

      A new map that measures wind resources at 96 to 100 meters shows places where there are decent wind resources and a lot of that is in the SE.

      As an aside, wind farms in Mexico are starting to use concrete towers which all for even higher hub heights. These towers will set the hubs at 120 meters.

      Now we need a US map for wind speeds at 120 meters….

      • Would anybody know what the time frame is for wind turbines to be up for replacements and potential power upgrades in the US, similar to what is done in other countries around the world?

        • Our first (?) wind farm, Altamont Pass is now undergoing a refurbishing. The original wind turbines were used for about 30 years and are now being replaced with fewer but taller and larger rotor turbines. One report said that maintenance costs were starting to rise.

          With all the improvements made over the previous 30 years I would expect current turbines will last much longer.

          Just look at how we can now “look forward” at the wind to see abrupt changes in wind speed, then adjust the blade angle to lessen stress on the rig. Add in the large number of sensors now built into turbines so that problems can be fixed while they are minor rather than after there is a noticeable drop in performance.

          • One article I read mentioned that the placement and orientation have major effect in expected lifetime. I wonder if this could be a significant optimization factor, along with production capacity and location relative to grid, load. If expected lifetime was, say, 40 years, in location with steady wind (based on measurements), compared to 20-25 for higher-stress location, it would seem significant different with respect to costs. But I don’t remember seeing a study about this aspect. By now there should be enough measured and operational data to have solid basis for modeling expected stress factors.

          • In almost any industry there are improvements on the performance and durability. so now we are looking a second/third generation of wind turbines, what will the next generation bring, more improvement and lower cost and goodby FF!

          • Here’s a big development that Zack got in an email…

            “While we cannot share specific numbers from our customers’ sites unless they release it already or it’s public information, but we’re definitely seeing some above 50 percent capacity factors at many farms.

            Capacity factors obviously vary across wind farms due to a wide range of site locations and other factors. GE wind turbines in farms across the United States—in states such as Montana, California, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Kansas—have reached capacity factors of over fifty percent over the last two years (2013-14).

            These sites include a variety of GE wind turbine models and installation dates, and each site has registered capacity factors ranging from 50.4 to 52.4 percent, including availability at around 98 percent.”

            Apologies for the delay in response, Adam Tucker here on the Communications team for GE Renewable Energy, which is now led by Nik Noel—on copy. In response to your inquiry on some capacity factors for wind farms, please find our thoughts below.

            While we cannot share specific numbers from our customers’ sites unless they release it already or it’s public information, but we’re definitely seeing some above 50 percent capacity factors at many farms.”

        • In case somebody wanted to know the numbers for Germany.
          Last year Germany installed 4750 MW of which 1148 MW was replacing 364 MW (Repowering of older wind-farms).
          Average tower height varied between 88 m (Schleswig-Holstein) and 138 m (Rhineland). link.

          • It would be interesting to also know beyond capacity increases whether load factor improved. Given that factors in Germany have been on low-side, those could be expected to improve as well with bigger towers, higher turbine altitude.

          • I don’t have any statistical data, but my guess would be that capacity factors should at least have doubled compared to a decade ago.
            This modern wind-turbine (Nordex N117) has a capacity factor of 40%. link.
            Compared to the Enercon E-66 which was a typical model a decade ago it has 235% more swept area per MW.
            Also, as the E-66 had a tower height of about 60 m, modern wind-turbines are installed at 138 m, which additionally increases the energy yield per MW by about 30% (in regions with weaker winds, the influence of the tower height is more pronounced.)

          • Cool videos.:)
            If somebody watches this, they may get a better idea of
            European roads and the term switch back.
            I grew up in Germany and have been on roads like that.
            All that is a lot easier in North America with wider roads etc.

          • Not only that, but North America also has better wind and solar resources than Europe. It’s a pity that wind and solar development has not exploded yet in North America.

            (While Germany does have alpine roads too, that second video was taken in Switzerland.)

  • And look at the solar numbers. NEW solar generated more kWh in 2014 than all of the previously installed solar combined. That’s an amazing growth rate.

    • Now if only the politicians in some countries would/could learn, I live in Canada, and get with the program! Clean energy that is.

  • Coal is one resilient bugger. After seeing the sharp decrease for 2012 a couple years ago, I thought the end was in sight, but we’ve had slight increases in 2013 and 2014. Lets hope 2015 brings the trend down again.

    Here’s the raw data if anyone is interested:

    2014 data summary on pages 11-12, time series on page 15.

    • Rising NG prices were giving coal a window for growth.

      • With upcoming coal plant closures that window is going to shrink.

        • At the end of 2012 there were 1,308 coal-fired generating units in the United States, totaling 310 GW of capacity.

          The Annual Energy Outlook 2014 projects that a total of 60 GW of capacity will retire by 2020, Most of the closures will happen before PBO leaves office. (Graph below)

          That’s a 20% generating capacity cut.

          It may be the case that some of the remaining plants will be run more hours to make up for the loss, but overall we should see at least a 10% cut in coal production. Or additional wind and solar on line might further eat into the profitability of some of the existing plants and force them to shut down more hours, even close.


          • Every photovoltaic panel installed is another little push toward closing another coal-burning power plant.

          • Given PV’s tendency to provide peak power, it’s more likely to displace natural gas than coal if (or rather when) it is deployed at significant scale.

            Coal’s (and nuclear’s) main challengers are geothermal, wind (if spread out over a sufficiently large area) and biomass. CSP too, if prices fall far enough.

          • I’d suggest that natural gas, wind and solar are replacing coal in the US. In that order. But that’s only stage one.

            The next stage should see more wind and solar along with solar taking market away from natural gas. Geothermal and biomass will likely play a smaller role as they are more geographically limited and not the lowest price sources of new capacity.

          • Anything that cuts into the profitability of a coal plant makes it harder for the coal plant to stay open.

          • Not exactly. You have to take into account that many “baseline” plants earned their bones by selling power at higher prices during peak periods. New solar and wind tend flatten the price amplitude of peaks and shorten their chronological locus as well.

            In other words, old coal plants that made up for rising costs from advancing age with lots of high peak hour pricing, will lose that window also.

    • I imagine part of the problem was dropping hydro production and natural gas getting less competitive… just a guess.

  • It looks to me like another story could come from these data.
    We know that nearly 50% of all new capacity for 2014 was in natural gas. But output of natural gas is falling.
    It reminds me very much of the story that coal-burning capacity in China was increasing rapidly while output was falling. That was called a bubble.

    • That’s a bit hasty. We don’t know how much of that new capacity is in the form of peak power plants, which run few hours a year. If they make up a large part of new NG capacity, the combination of more capacity and less gas use needn’t be proof of a bubble.

      Quite the opposite I’d say, since a combination of rapid retirement of old coal/nuclear plants and their replacement by much more intermittent wind and solar should increase the margins of peakers.

    • My take is that utilities are installing gas capacity in preparation for the loss of coal capacity along with the availability of more cheap wind and solar.

      The recent small uptick in coal use has been an economic reaction to the increased cost of NG. No one should be surprised if fuel price swings drive use choices. But over the next couple of years we’re closing a lot of of coal plants, about 20% of our existing capacity. The option to burn more coal is not going to be as available.

      And, I’ll say yet again, we’re looking at a lot of coal capacity aging out over the next decade. The average lifespan for a coal plant is 42 years. Most of our coal plants are more than 26 years old.

  • Are you sure it is not 13000 megawatts?
    13000 gigawatts is a lot !

    I doubt we put the equivalent of 13000 nuclear reactors up in one year
    I guess we could have put up 130 but even that seems like a lot

    No matter, it is great to see more wind

    • It’s gigawatt-hours not gigawatt. So it’s the actual amount of electricity produced, not the amount of production capacity installed.

  • Great article Mr Hill!!!
    I particularly like the list of states with the percent of electricity supplied by Wind. 28% already in Iowa. 9 states already have over 10%. …and with dirt-bag congress giving them the on-again, off-again, incentive instabilities. Who’d a thunk it! Very very nice! Thank you!

    • Discussion here is also excellent!!!

  • Texas is actually already at 10% 🙂

  • Important to note that % MADE in a state does not correlate to % USED in that state. For example: suppose a state gets 85% of its energy from coal that was sourced outside the state’s borders. That would then mean that only 15% of that state’s energy was made in their own state. And say 20% of that 15% was from wind….it would translate into 3 % of that state’s energy actually came from wind sources in their own state. Gotta examine closely.

  • … only if you enjoy subsidizing Big Wind. BTW – Iowa receives large tax support (from other states) to do this.

    “Combined with other subsidies and programs, wind generators received $56.29 in government subsidies per megawatt-hour in 2010, according to a 2012 report from the Institute for Energy Research. That’s compared with 64 cents in subsidies for natural gas and $3.14 for nuclear power.”

    While ‘some’ locations have reached 50% capacity factors,that is not the average … 30% still is. You’re ignoring seasonal variations in wind availability. And it is the minimum you have to build for (closer to 25%) to ‘guarantee’ that people have electricity on demand. That means you still need 4x more power capacity (power plants) sitting idle waiting to back up a wind farm with the ability to come online on demand … not when mother nature feels like it. This make it terrible for base load and unreliable for peaking.

    Wind and solar can make effective supplements (but please, you pay for it, and not by taxing me), but they are not yet cost effective for the general grid.

    • BES, let’s put some facts on the table, shall we?

      US taxpayers (that’s the “taxing me” stuff) spend between $140 billion and $242 billion every single year to cover the health damage caused by burning coal. You, my friend, are paying a bunch of money because we get about 40% of our electricity from coal. Year after year after year.

      That should get you into your tricorne and shaking your snake flag.

      Every five years we piss away about a trillion US taxpayer dollars. Two trillion dollars per decade. And if we keep burning coal we keep flushing all those valuable tax dollars down the toilet.

      Now, how might we stop this outflow? The answer is pretty easy. We install renewables and quit using coal. How do we build up the wind and solar industries we need to let us leave coal behind? We subsidize them exactly like we’ve subsidized other emerging technologies.

      But here’s the sweet, sweet thing. Subsidies don’t go on year after year after year like spending on coal damage. They fade away.

      Renewables for wind and solar are almost finished. It’s very unlikely that there will be any further subsidy programs five years from now. And five or so years after that the previous subsidy programs will have paid out.

      Now let’s look at what we’re spending to build our wind and solar industries –

      Based on EIA production numbers from the beginning of 2010 through 2013 solar produced 16,625,000,000 kWh. During the same period wind produced 762,483,520,000 kWh.

      Ignoring the fact that some wind/solar farms chose the 30% ITC rather than the $0.025/kWh PTC and doing the math as if all wind and solar chose the PTC, wind and solar subsidies would have received subsidies (had their taxes lowered) by $19.5 billion.

      Over three years we taxpayers paid out less than $20 billion to build wind and solar. Less than $7 billion per year.

      Compare that to $140 billion to $242 billion spent on coal damage.

      Invest $7 billion to gain $140 to $242 billion. That’s just a damned incredible bargain. Makes one want to grab their musket, run outside, and fire a celebratory ball into the air.

      • Listen up BES. Some of the stuff in your comment is bunk.

        Current wind farms are returning CF numbers in the mid 40% range with some of the latest over 50%.

        Overbuilding is something we do all the time in the energy world. US coal plants run at <60% CF and natural gas plants run at <30%. Some gas plants run only a few hours a year. Overbuilding wind and solar is nothing new, just BAU.

        The price of wind and solar continue to fall. We seem to have very inexpensive storage coming on line. It's looking very much like we will spend less for electricity in the future than we now do. And that's not including the external costs of burning coal and gas.

        Spend a bit of time on this site. Read some articles and see how a renewable grid works and how it will meet all our energy needs and save us money.

        No one likes spending any more money than necessary.

Comments are closed.