Oooh -- I find the article below so exciting! I have driven through wind fields in Europe and California, and I find them beautiful. I have never understood the general American NIMBY opposition to wind turbines... I think they are so pretty, and relaxing to watch. And they are so much better for the envirnment than most alternatives. Even with the alloted amount of bird deaths from the turbines, I imagine they would kill less birds yearly than pollution from many other energy sources. In our home we use 100% green energy from our electric company in the form of 50% wind, 25% hydro (very common in CT), and 25% landfill gas. So, even when our bills are high, I still feel pretty good about them! Still, I have looked into getting a small turbine for my own land, and hope to someday have a pasture to accomodate it (and some goats!)
Reprinted from EERE Network News, a free newsletter from the U.S. Department of Energy:
New estimates for wind energy potential are blowing us away! The United States has the potential to create nine times as much energy by wind annually as was created by all energy sources combined in 2009.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released new estimates of the United States’ wind energy potential, which tripled previous estimates of the size of the nation's wind resources. The new study, which was carried out by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and AWS Truewind, finds that the contiguous 48 states have the potential to generate up to 37 million gigawatt hours annually. To put that in perspective, total U.S. electricity generation from all sources was roughly 4 million gigawatt hours in 2009. The estimates show the total energy yield that could be generated using current wind turbine technology on the nation's windy lands. (The estimates show what is possible, not what will actually be developed.)
Along with the state-by-state estimates of wind energy potential, NREL and AWS Truewind have developed wind resource maps for the United States and for the contiguous 48 states that show the predicted average wind speeds at an 80-meter height. The wind resource maps and estimates provide local, state, and national policymakers with accurate information about the nature of the wind resource in their areas and across the nation, helping them to make informed decisions about wind energy in their communities.
Why Has Wind Energy Potential Gone Up?
The new estimates reflect substantial advances in wind turbine technology that have occurred since the Department of Energy's last national wind resource assessments were conducted in 1993. For example, previous wind resource maps showed predicted average wind speeds at a height of 50 meters, which was the height of most wind turbine towers at the time. The new maps show predicted average wind speeds at an 80-meter height, the height of today's turbines. Because wind speed generally increases with height, turbines built on taller towers can capture more energy and generate more electricity. The new estimates also incorporate updated capacity factors, reflecting improvements in wind turbine design and performance.