You are reading Part 4 of 7 in this series.What are Quick Facts?
Wind energy made up 2.5% of the energy (and 22% of renewable energy) used in the United States in 2018 and 7.3% of electricity generated in the United States in 2019.
What is wind energy and how is it used?
Wind pushes against and turns turbine blades, which in turn spin a generator to produce energy.
Though wind turbine technology has been available in the United States since the 1800s, the concept became much more popular with spiking gas prices in the 1970s. Tax credit programs incentivized wind energy use, and the capacity for wind energy generation in the United States has more than quadrupled since 2008.
Areas of the country with more available land and more constant, faster winds have the potential to generate more wind energy than other areas. In 2018, wind energy made up more than 10% of the energy generated in-state for Kansas, Iowa, and Oklahoma. Combined with Texas, which produced the most electricity from wind, these four states accounted for the majority of U.S. wind-generated electricity in 2018.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of wind energy?
The cost of wind energy has decreased over the last decade and onshore wind turbines are among the cheaper ways to generate electricity, although costs are higher for offshore turbines.
The price of electricity from wind farms is stable over long periods, a benefit for consumers.
Wind turbines are often built on land that is used for farming or other purposes, and can create additional income for the landowner.
Turbines can cause relatively small-scale ecosystem disturbances, including noise and harm to animals such as birds and bats in collisions, although these issues vary at specific sites. These specific problems, however, kill far fewer animals than factors such as urban development and infrastructure construction, and informed planning for wind farm placement and turbine design can mitigate these effects.
The emissions associated with wind energy — which arise from steps like constructing windmills, rather than the actual energy generation — are relatively low. They often have less environmental impact than emissions tied to photovoltaic systems like solar panels and far below emissions from fossil fuels like natural gas, oil, and coal.
The Business Council for Sustainable Energy’s 2020 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook includes recent information on the U.S. energy sector, such as market details, data on emerging technologies, and historical trends.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) published the 2018 Renewable Energy Fact Book, which is the most recent edition and includes summary information on the different types of renewable energy sources. The Fact Book was prepared by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which also gives information about each of the major renewable energy sources. The EERE also describes technologies and research in different methods of renewable electricity generation, including solar, geothermal, wind, and water.
The International Energy Agency (a Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organization) produced the report Global CO2 Emissions in 2019, which provides helpful international context about global energy trends and development. A report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2019, breaks down the prices tied to different renewable energy technologies and processes on a global scale.