Taller Wind Turbines Could Expand U.S. Wind Power Potential

May 26, 2015 1 By Angie Bergenson

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Wind energy generation has grown in America but it is also limited.

Last year, in the United States, wind power production experienced higher growth compared to all other sources of energy in the nation, supplying nearly 5% of total demand for electricity, but a new report from the Department of Energy (DOE) says that the U.S. wind energy industry has far greater potential and that this potential could be reached if wind turbines were taller.

Taller turbines have the potential to generate more energy in more places.

According to the DOE, deploying taller wind turbines “will expand U.S. land area available for wind deployment by 54%. Further innovation and increasing heights to 140 m will increase that further to 67%.” In addition, the DOE stated that “Innovations addressing the technical and economic challenges, as well as the environmental and human use considerations,” are vital in order to be able to realize America’s full wind energy potential and value for each one of the nation’s 50 states.

The report explains that taller turbines will be crucial to the DOE’s vision of wind power being capable of supplying 20% of all of the country’s power by 2030, followed by 35% by 2050, reported The Washington Post.

Wind Energy - Taller Wind TurbinesThat being said, in order to make this 2030 vision a reality, wind energy must expand to 49 of the 50 states. The problem is that not every one of these states generates lower-level winds that have the strength or reliability needed to produced significant power using the current standard technologies.

Taller wind turbines will be able to capture wind power at higher altitudes.

Due to friction, wind that is lower to the ground typically blows with less energy compared to wind that is higher in the atmosphere. Therefore, the key to growing wind power potential in the U.S. is to construct turbines that are tall enough, but also strong enough, to be able to capture energy from wind at higher altitudes in new areas of the country.

Although the American Wind Energy Association states that 80 meter high wind turbines have been “state of the art” for many years, currently, there are around a thousand wind energy turbines in the U.S. that are higher than 100 meters. That being the case, these turbines are still not tall enough for some places.

The DOE report states that wind turbines at 110 meters would add an extra 4,262,000 square kilometers of area in the US that would, theoretically become suitable for turbines, while turbines of 140 meters would lead to an additional 4,629,000 square kilometers.

Although building taller wind turbines would present several obstacles, the DOE research looks promising. Tom Kiernan of the American Wind Energy Association said that “By going to 100 or 110 meters, we can open up all 50 states.”