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Wind power

Wind power

The conversion of wind energy into a useful form

NAICS industry definition

This U.S. industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in operating wind electric power generation facilities. These facilities use wind power to drive a turbine and produce electric energy. The electric energy produced in these establishments is provided to electric power transmission systems or to electric power distribution systems.

We’ve come a long way from old-fashioned wind mills. Today, turbines as tall as skyscrapers—with turbines nearly as wide in diameter—stand at attention around the world. Wind energy turns a turbine’s blades, which feed an electric generator and produces electricity

Wind, which accounts for a little more than 6 percent of U.S. generation, has become the cheapest energy source in many parts of the country. Top wind power states include California, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa, though turbines can be placed anywhere with high wind speeds—such as hilltops and open plains—or even offshore in open water.

Wind power is a popular, sustainable, renewable energy source that has a much smaller impact on the environment than burning fossil fuels. Wind farms consist of many individual wind turbines, which are connected to the electric power transmission network.

In 2020, wind supplied almost 1600 TWh of electricity, which was over 5% of worldwide electrical generation and about 2% of energy consumption. With over 100 GW added during 2020, mostly in China, global installed wind power capacity reached more than 730 GW. To help meet the Paris Agreement goals to limit climate change, analysts say it should expand much faster - by over 1% of electricity generation per year.

New onshore (on-land) wind farms are cheaper than new coal or gas plants, but expansion of wind power is being hindered by fossil fuel subsidies. Onshore wind farms have a greater visual impact on the landscape than other power stations, as they need to be spread over more land and need to be built in rural areas. Small onshore wind farms can feed some energy into the grid or provide power to isolated off-grid locations. Offshore wind farms provide a steadier and stronger source of energy and have less visual impact. Although there is less offshore wind power at present and construction and maintenance costs are higher, it is expanding.

Wind power is variable renewable energy, so power-management techniques are used to match supply and demand, such as: wind hybrid power systems, hydroelectric power or other dispatchable power sources, excess capacity, geographically distributed turbines, exporting and importing power to neighboring areas, or grid storage. As the proportion of wind power in a region increases the grid may need to be upgraded. Weather forecasting allows the electric-power network to be readied for the predictable variations in production that occur.


Further Resources


Wind Power 101


December 1, 2014


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