What is a wind farm?
A wind farm, or wind power plant, is a cluster of wind turbines used to produce electric power. A large wind farm usually has from 24 individual turbines up to more than 100 scattered over hundreds of square miles. Wind farms are modular, adding more turbines as electricity demand increases. Wind farms are often located on existing cattle or agricultural acreage making efficient use of the land. The widespread use of wind farms is a cornerstone of the Pickens Plan, a blueprint for energy independence advocated by T. Boone Pickens the prominent Texas oilman. Wind farms are one of the best examples of the successful implementation of renewable energy, along with utility scale thermal solar, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric power.
What’s the best location for a wind farm?
The most important aspect to consider when siting a wind farm is wind speed. Wind farm owners carefully plan where to locate their turbines. Developers look for average wind speed to be at least 10 mph. The best location would have a steady flow of calm wind all year with only a small chance of sudden powerful bursts of wind. Colored maps of available wind power throughout the United States can be consulted to find the most auspicious areas for wind farms. One can clearly see color density classes (representing wind speeds) on the maps. Wind speed generally increases with altitude and in open areas where there are no windbreaks (trees, buildings, mountains). The best sites for wind farms are the tops of smooth, rounded hills, shorelines, open plains, and mountain gaps that produce wind funneling.
What are the different types of wind farms?
There are three basic types of wind farms -- onshore, nearshore and offshore. Onshore wind farms are in mountainous areas where wind funneling increases wind speeds and electricity production. Other onshore wind farms could be sited in the great open plains in the middle of the United States, including states such as Texas, Iowa, Minnesota and Oklahoma.
Nearshore wind farms are located on land within three miles of a shoreline or on water within seven miles of land. These are beneficial sites for wind farm installation because convection produced wind -- the land and sea heat up differently and the resulting convection produces wind.
Offshore wind farms are more than seven miles from land. Offshore wind farms benefit from smooth deep water and the high average wind speeds found over open water.
What are some interesting facts about wind farm production?
In 2006, wind turbines in the United States generated a total of 26.6 billion kWh per year of electricity, enough to serve more than 2.4 million households. This is enough electric power to run a city larger than Los Angeles, but it is only 0.4 percent of our nation’s total electricity production. Wind generated electricity has been growing rapidly in recent years -- in 2006, electricity generated from wind was 2 ½ times more than wind generation in 2002.
More than 28 states generate wind-powered electricity. Texas, California, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Iowa produce the most wind-powered electricity.
Many utilities offer green pricing programs for their customers. These allow customers to pay more for electricity that comes from renewable sources.
Most wind power plants are located in the U.S. and Europe where government programs have spurred wind power development. Germany is the leading country in wind power development; the U.S. is second followed by Spain and India. Denmark ranks number six in the world but generates 20 percent of its electricity from wind.
What is the potential for wind power generated electricity in the United States?
The potential for wind power generated electricity in the United States is vast. Using today’s advanced technology, there is potentially enough wind power flowing across the country to supply all of our electricity needs. One third of the nation’s electricity could come from North Dakota. 46 of the 50 states have adequate winds for commercial power production sites. However, at this point only 1 percent of the nation’s electricity is supplied by wind power. This country’s vast potential can be tapped with the help of government incentives and a shift in energy policy priorities toward long-term support for alternative energy development.