Wind power is an unlimited renewable resource and one of the most cost-effective alternative sources of energy available today. Every year, the U.S. continues to add more wind power plants throughout the country, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
As this resource becomes more and more common, many people have questions about what wind energy is, as well as how it works and can benefit their daily lives.
You may have seen wind turbines when driving through the country: modern-looking windmills with turning blades. But how does that distributed wind power get to the cities and towns that need electricity?
In this article, we’ll look at wind power distribution, as well as some fun facts about this renewable energy resource and its growth and use, both in the U.S. and throughout the world.
How Is Wind Energy Distributed?
Wind turbines are designed to capture the fastest, strongest winds, which then pass through a generator and are converted into electricity. This power is then pushed to a transformer that “steps up” the voltage before it is transmitted into the power distribution grid.
Transmission lines throughout the country transport the electricity to cities and towns, helping to power homes and businesses across the U.S.
Factors Affecting Wind Energy Distribution
There are three main factors that impact the output of wind power plants: wind speed, air density, and blade radius.
Higher wind speeds generate more power because these stronger winds cause the turbine blades to rotate faster. This results in more mechanical power, and thus more electrical power created in the generator.
Altitude, pressure, and temperature all play a role in determining air density. The denser the air, the more pressure is put on the rotors within the wind turbine, and thus the more power is created.
The design of the blades (and the turbine design in general) can have a significant impact on wind turbine power distribution. Larger blades enable the turbine to capture more wind energy.
Facts About Wind Energy Distribution
Wind energy capacity continues to grow rapidly not just in the U.S., but around the world, as countries work to transition away from using fossil fuels for power. Here are a few of our favorite fun facts about distributed wind energy.
1. While China has the highest wind energy capacity of any country, the United States isn’t far behind, boasting an 85% year-over-year increase in wind capacity in 2020. Most of this wind energy comes from onshore plants, but the Biden Administration has announced a plan to add 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by the year 2030.
2. Texas is the leading state in the U.S. for wind power transmission and distribution. Wyoming, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Missouri have also been active in developing wind energy technology.
3. According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) in its 2021 Global Wind Report, the current global wind power capacity is enough to avoid the annual carbon emissions of the entire country of Japan, the world’s fifth-highest carbon-emitting country.
4. Distributed wind energy installations are commonly used at commercial, industrial, agricultural, and community sites. These installations can range from a small turbine at a local business to a massive turbine at a manufacturing facility and are designed to offset the power used by these businesses.
5. Wind energy doesn’t just include large turbines and power plants, but also smaller turbines for residential use. You can even use wind power in conjunction with a solar power system for your home.
6. Wind power has been around for centuries and was originally used to pump water, lift heavy items, grind grain, as well as for other purposes.
7. Most wind energy is onshore or land-based, but wind power technology can also be installed offshore, using turbines anchored to the ocean floor or floating structures.
8. The top five countries with the highest wind energy capacity and distribution are China, the United States, Germany, India, and Spain.
9. Distributed wind power helps contribute to the domestic economy, providing manufacturing, maintenance, retail, and construction jobs to thousands of workers.
10. In addition to being an unlimited source of renewable energy, the advantages of wind power also include helping individual consumers potentially reduce their energy charges and hedge against rising electricity rates. Many utility companies even compensate distributed wind power owners for excess energy generated that ends up returned to the grid. This is known as net metering.
Along with solar power, wind energy is one of the best available renewable energy sources to help power your home—and the costs of installing these systems continue to decrease. If you’re looking to reduce your environmental footprint and decrease your reliance on fossil fuels, wind power can be a great way to do so.