Wind turbines in United States produce about 17 billion kWh of electricity annually, roughly enough electricity to power the city of Chicago. However, while wind power has tripled since 1998, today it still only represents about 0.4 percent of total US electricity production. The rapid growth in wind power has been fueled by the development of new technologies and tax incentives that have decreased the cost of producing electricity from wind. One of the greatest strengths of wind as a renewable resource is that it can produce power on the micro level allowing individual homes or facilities to generate power.
Wind turbines convert kinetic energy in the form of wind into an electrical current. The stronger (up to a certain point) and more consistent the wind available, the more power that can be generated. Generally, wind speeds below 7-10 mph will not produce wind power, and speeds between 45 and 80 mph will cause most wind turbines cease power generation and shut down. The electricity that is generated from a wind turbine can feed directly into the grid or be stored. Under net metering (available in some states), power companies will pay full market price for any excess electricity produced that gets fed into the grid.
Under many circumstances, wind power now can compete economically with conventional generation technologies such as nuclear and modern coal-fired plants. Installation costs may differ depending on local zoning, permitting, and utility interconnection costs. Small turbines may run between $3,000-$50,000 including installation, depending on size, application, and service agreements with the manufacturer. According to the American Wind Energy Association a typical 10kW small wind turbine costs approximately $32,000. Generally, a turbine will cost $1,000-$5,000 per kilowatt to install, not including tax credits currently available.
New wind power projects have proven that wind energy not only is cost-competitive, but also offers additional benefits to the economy and the environment. The development of wind energy carries the economic benefits of creating jobs and new businesses while supporting local economies and reducing reliance on imported energy. Wind turbines can be installed relatively quickly, once a site is selected and licenses and permits are approved.
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Since no combustion occurs in wind power generation, there are no direct emissions of greenhouse gases or other pollutants. Development of wind energy generating capacity can assist utilities and other energy generators in complying with regulations for air pollution and hazardous waste, as well as avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions associated with operating fossil fuel power plants.
It is estimated that for every megawatt-hour (1,000 kilowatt-hours) of electricity generated by a wind turbine, 1,100-2,200 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions are avoided. Based on the national average fuel mix, wind energy also avoids almost 15 pounds of sulfur, nitrogen oxides and particulates and 3.5 ounces of trace metals such as mercury.
Wind turbines generally require the use of land, although they may also be sited offshore. Land around wind turbines can be used for other purposes, such as the grazing of cattle or farming. When wind turbines are removed from land, there are no solid wastes or fuel residues left behind.
Solid Waste Generation
For every megawatt-hour of power generated by a wind turbine it is estimated that 450 pounds of solid.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory operates the National Wind Technology Center and other wind-related programs for the U.S. Department of Energy.
DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network provides information on wind energy.
The National Wind Coordinating Committee provides a forum for identifying issues that affect the use of wind power.
Tel: 888-764-WIND or 202-965-6398
The American Wind Energy Association is a national trade association that represents hundreds of wind energy member companies and advocates from the United States and around the world.
AWEA Small Wind Turbine Manufacturers List
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has compiled the following list of U.S. manufacturers and suppliers of wind turbines.