Wind Power

To meet the electricity needs of a power company, a number of large wind turbines (50 kilowatts up to 2 megawatts) can be built close together to form a wind plant. Several power providers today use wind plants to supply power to their customers.

Wind turbines operate on a simple principle. The energy in the wind turns two or three propeller-like blades around a rotor. The rotor is connected to the main shaft, which spins a generator. The blades act much like airplane wings. When the wind blows, a pocket of low-pressure air forms on the downwind side of the blade. The low-pressure air pocket then pulls the blade toward it, causing the rotor to turn. This is called lift. The force of the lift is actually much stronger than the wind's force against the front side of the blade, which is called drag. The combination of lift and drag is what causes the rotor to spin.

Wind turbines are mounted on a tower to capture the most energy. At 100 feet (30 meters) or more above ground, they can take advantage of faster and less turbulent wind.

Where It's Available

Wind energy can be produced anywhere in the world where the wind blows with a strong and consistent force. Windier locations produce more energy, which lowers the cost of producing electricity. Moderate to excellent wind resources are found in most regions of the United States. However, the majority of the useable wind resources in the United States are found in the western Plains states.

The U.S. map, below, shows the predicted mean annual wind speeds at 80-m height (at a spatial resolution of 2.5 km that is interpolated to a finer scale). Areas with annual average wind speeds around 6.5 m/s and greater at 80-m height are generally considered to have suitable wind resource for wind development.

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