“Meteoric” is one way to describe wind energy’s rise to the top of America’s renewable energy industry.
Amid repeated calls from scientists and activists to undertake measures to curb global warming, lawmakers, politicians, and the energy industry have responded. Foremost in that effort is the call for carbon-free energy production via alternative energy sources like wind and solar. Many states have followed suit, with governors from coast to coast implementing wide-ranging initiatives meant to gradually reduce the carbon footprint of power generation in the coming years.
Wind generation is at the leading edge of the movement toward clean energy production. Fields of wind turbines across the country have slowly started to increase their proportion of total energy production. And just this year, President Joe Biden announced measures meant to accelerate the development of offshore wind energy.
While U.S. offshore wind production currently lags behind that of other developed nations, its onshore capacity is second only to China. Wind energy’s share of total utility-scale electricity generation in the U.S. grew from less than 1% in 1990 to about 8% last year.
In 2019, more than $13 billion was invested in wind power, and the amount of new generation capacity added to the nation’s electrical grids through wind projects was greater than all other sources except natural gas. Driving the investment may be the simple fact that it’s far cheaper to install wind farms than it is to build hydroelectric plants and solar farms. Alongside the value, the federal government subsidized wind construction with tax credits. The result? Wind generation exceeded hydroelectric power for the first time in 2019.
While tax credits and reasonable construction costs have increased wind’s popularity, perhaps its greatest advantage is availability. Wind regularly barrels across the Midwest and the Texas-Oklahoma border at average speeds of 20 to 30 miles per hour, a key speed range, as turbines reach their rated generation capacity when winds hit 26 to 30 miles per hour.
This explains why the Midwest and the West South Central region are home to the top wind-generated electricity producers in the nation. Texas leads the nation in total wind energy production, generating more than twice as much wind electricity as the next state. And while the Lone Star State’s wind energy makes up a significant portion of its renewable energy generation (92%), Kansas’ renewable energy generation relies on wind more than any other state. Kansas’ wind turbines produce more than 99% of its renewable energy and 42% of total.
The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. To determine the states producing the most wind energy, researchers at Commodity.com calculated each state’s annual wind energy production, measured in megawatt-hours. Researchers also calculated the absolute change in wind energy production since 2010, wind’s share of total energy production, and wind’s share of total renewable energy production.
The analysis found that in Utah, wind energy accounts for 2.1% of total energy production, compared to the 7.2% of total U.S. energy production that wind accounts for. Annually, Utah produces more than 800 thousand megawatt-hours from wind energy. Here is a summary of the data for Utah:
- Annual wind energy production (MWh): 818,684
- Change in wind energy production since 2010 (MWh): 371,004
- Wind share of total energy production: 2.1%
- Wind share of total renewable energy production: 19.2%
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Annual wind energy production (MWh): 295,882,483
- Change in wind energy production since 2010 (MWh): 201,230,237
- Wind share of total energy production: 7.2%
- Wind share of total renewable energy production: 40.6%