Taller Wind Turbines Boost State Energy Self-Reliance

Date: 11 Sep 2012 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 2 Facebooktwitterredditmail

A story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune today highlights the increasingly common use of 100 meter wind turbines for new wind power projects, up from the previous 80 meter standard.  The technological change grabs more wind energy, with consistently higher wind speeds at higher altitudes, meaning states can get even more power from a similar number of turbines.

In our 2010 report Energy Self-Reliant States, we illustrated the potential for state self-reliance on wind power with the following map, using NREL data that assumed turbine heights of 80 meters (and a minimum capacity factor of 35%, to be conservative).  If you mouse over the map below, you can see what the same map looks like assuming the use of 100 meter towers, with projects operating at a 30% capacity factor or greater.

Five more states are able to get 100% or more of their electricity from wind power (for a total of 27) and 30 states could get at least half their electricity from in-state wind power alone.

Photo credit

John Farrell
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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.

2 Responses

  1. LuAnn Kowar
    | Reply

    What’s the deal with State’s at 0% capacity? Does that mean they have absolutely no suitable public land on which to construct windmills? Does that mean they have no privately-installed windmills associated with sales to on-grid utility companies? What does 0% and the other under-10% States’ lack-of-potential mean? I do see with the 2012 update (accessed via hovering the mouse to read the updated data), but the East Coast and Southeastern U.S. seem so disproportionately low, and I’m not understanding that. Is it the numerator-over-denominator aspect, meaning the power-usages (denominator) are extraordinarily high plus the wind-potentials are extraordinarily low year-round? Please advise further.

  2. John Farrell
    John Farrell
    | Reply


    A few things in reply:
    1) This isn’t just about public land, but about suitable land for commercial wind development, public or private.
    2) The percentages reflect the amount of wind power potential divided by the state’s annual electricity use. So if a state could get 100 kilowatt-hours (kWh) a year from wind power and consumed 100 kWh a year, it would show 100%. That ratio is also why the Dakotas have ridiculously high numbers (lots of wind power and relatively low consumption) and why Nevada or Arizona, with quite good wind resources but bigger populations, can’t quite generate enough to meet total state consumption.
    3) In other words, a low number means a poor wind resource relative to state electricity consumption.

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