Wind power is a fast-growing alternative energy used primarily for electricity generation, and according to the Energy Information Agency (EIA), wind is expected to show more growth than any other renewable except biomass.
In the U.S., wind produced about 2% of total electricity generation last year. Wind-generated electricity increased 30% between 2006 and 2007, and 51% between 2007 and 2008, more than any other renewable source, thanks to newly-constructed wind power plants. Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) had something to do with it, too. A number of states have RPS policies (also referred to as Renewable Electricity Standards or RES) to increase generation of electricity from renewable sources.
A national RPS has not yet made it through Congress. Urging action, the CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said in a press release on February 18, 2010, “…The wind resource is there, vast and inexhaustible, waiting for us. Meanwhile, the economy can’t wait, job creation can’t wait, and America can’t wait. We need Congress to act now and pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill that includes a strong national Renewable Electricity Standard.”
Potential wind capacity is vast in the interior corridors of the nation, as well as from offshore winds. The National Renewable Energy Lab estimates that there is enough wind resources, if fully exploited, to power nine times the current electricity consumption. However, this will take investment into infrastructure, transmission lines and into equipment. Offshore wind generation may be more reliable (and closer to population centers) but it is twice as expensive as onshore wind generation. General Electric is by far the largest supplier of wind turbines in the U.S.
In 2009, the U.S. wind industry added nearly 10,000 megawatts of new capacity, equivalent to powering 2.4 million homes (or equal to electricity generated by three large power plants), says the AWEA. The top seven windiest states are Texas, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa.