Wind energy farms are growing both in size and number throughout the United States. A surprise to me was learning that Texas has the largest wind farm production in the country with more in the planning stages.
There are over 9.4 G W of wind power installations in Texas. These farms are located in the west-central area of the state. The current largest wind farm in the world is in central Texas. It produces 735 M W of clean electric power and is one of over 40 projects generating electricity from wind farms in that part of the state. A common problem with wind farms is that they tend to be located in rural areas and the demand for that electricity is in the cities, far from the farms. When a wind farm is proposed, the distribution of the electricity must be taken into account. In most places outside of Texas this presents a problem because the transmission lines are governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the stability of the whole system is questionable. Texas, however, has its own electric grid governed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Because of this Texas can incorporate privately owned wind farms more easily into its grid.
Farmers in Texas can lease their farmland to wind developers as an additional revenue source. They can either get a set rental fee per turbine or receive a percentage of annual revenue from the project. These leases for the farmers land pay between $3,000 to $5,000 per turbine per year and still allow the farmers to grow their crops or graze cattle on the land.
Iowa is the second largest producer of wind powered electricity in the country. Over 3 G W of energy is produced by Iowa and because it’s flat, has strong winds, and is close to load centers like Chicago and Milwaukee distribution is easy. Because it’s a mostly rural state made up of large farms access to the land is easy and the state has relaxed regulations and streamlined the permitting process. The wind industry in the state has also accounted for a rapid jobs growth and the counties are getting a large increase in revenue.
The next largest producer of wind electricity is California with nearly 3 G W of installed capacity. From the early 1980s to 1995 California produced 30% of the world’s wind energy in wind farms in three of the most prominent wind areas in the state. As time went on Texas and Iowa have overtaken California but there are projects being proposed that will add 4.6 G W of wind generated power with 1.55 G W coming from the Alta Wind Energy Center. This is the largest wind farm in the country more than twice the power of the Texas 735 M W farm.
There are many more wind farms in the works either waiting for approvals or on the drawing boards. Projects like the 1 G W farm to be located between the state of Rhode Island and the eastern end of Long Island in the middle of the Long Island Sound. With improvements to underwater cables and wind turbines, offshore wind farms are likely to spring up as the interest in them continues to rise. European countries are way ahead of the United States in installed capacity offshore, the U.K. having the most with 1.23 G W installed, another 1.15 G W under construction and 34 G W being planned.
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