Undoubtably, you’ve seen a large wind turbine spinning somewhere offshore, or in a field. These turbines are busy helping our clean energy industry reach new heights, with wind set to become the US’ largest source of renewable power by 2020.
As wind continues to make big contributions to our grid, we’re taking a look at how these resources currently fit into our energy industry today, and what to expect tomorrow too.
Wind energy fast facts
In 2017, renewables accounted for seventeen percent of total U.S. electricity generated, with wind accounting for just over six percent. With the wind energy industry growing 9% in the same year, the U.S. adding over 7,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity. There are now over 54,000 wind turbines with a combined capacity of 90,550 MW operating in 41 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico — triple what we had a decade ago.
Texas leads the way with over 23,000 MW of wind capacity operating today. Those megawatts are supported by over 24,000 people employed by the wind energy industry within the state.
According to GE, the average height of an onshore U.S. wind turbine is 466 feet. The tallest U.S. onshore wind turbine is located at the Hancock Wind Project - Hancock County, Maine, and stands at a whopping 574 feet tall — higher than the Washington Monument in D.C.
While the US’ tallest wind turbine is nothing to gawk at, it falls short of It falls short to it’s offshore cousins. The tallest offshore wind turbine in the U.S. stands at 590 feet and is located at the Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island.
A global wind energy industry
Even though the U.S. is expanding its wind capacity, there still is one other country that continues to lead the race, China.
China has had the largest market for wind power dating back to 2009. According to CNBC, “China installed 19.7 gigawatts (GW) of capacity in 2017, a huge amount that was more than double any other market.”
After China and the U.S., Germany, India, and Spain round out the top five of the world’s leading wind power nations. Germany saw more than 6.5 GW installed in 2017, leading the way for all European countries, with Spain coming in second. That same year, India installed over 4 GW of new wind power capacity which made it the second largest wind generating country in all of Asia.
Germany’s onshore wind turbines located in Gaildorf, stand at approximately 809 feet, which currently make them the tallest turbines in the world. Though as you’ll read below, that record is soon to be broken.
The wind energy industry tomorrow
Wind turbines generally impact only about 2% of the land they sit on, meaning most wind turbines can safely sit above working farms, fisheries, and more. Even as the size of our turbines increases, we’ll likely start seeing more and more of these towering energy generators all over the U.S.
When it comes to wind turbines, bigger is better. Having bigger rotors and blades helps you cover a wider area, capturing more wind with greater efficiency, increasing the power generating capacity of each wind turbine. Many of the advances being pursued in wind turbine technology are linked to advancements in scale.
The Haliade-X is just one example of the potential impact wind energy can have on the world. This advanced wind turbine will stand over 850 feet tall, with each blade topping out at over 300 feet long. A single blade longer than a football field.
If you’re trying to visualize the height of the Haliade-X, think of the Paris Eiffel Tower which stands at 1,063 feet. Only 200 feet less than the Eiffel Tower, the Haliade-X turbines will be the biggest and most powerful in the world. The project – which has seen investors pour over $400 million into it – will be developed off the coast of Saint-Nazaire, France.
By 2030, the U.S. hopes to increase its total wind capacity to over 220 GW across 47 states, per the U.S. Department of Energy. This projected growth includes offshore wind projects across various states (Texas, Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, etc.).
Wind development continues to see consistent growth as project costs continue to fall. So when you think of wind energy and how 2019 will shape up, think of two things: bigger wind turbines, and more offshore farms.
Researchers have also looked at ways to take advantage of deeper ocean levels, by using floating wind farms. “Researchers are evaluating floating wind structures, which allow siting offshore turbines in deeper water where fixed-foundations are unfeasible.” The first of its kind is expected to be developed in Northern California.
It’s important that the U.S. and nations all around the world continue to dedicate resources and time to wind energy development. Eventually fossil fuels will run out. Luckily for us, over 70 percent of our planet is made up of water. With a vast amount of offshore “land” readily available, wind energy may one day become the world’s leader in energy production.