According to a study by Stanford University researchers, about a fourth of the United States experiences winds powerful enough to generate electricity as cheaply as natural gas or coal-fired plants. However, the study, which measured wind speeds at turbines mounted 262 ft above ground, also says “the unexploited electric power potential from winds in the U.S., especially the Southeast and Gulf coasts, appears enormous.”
“There are practical issues to overcome like placing transmission capacity in the right locations and determining what is involved in developing offshore resources from a technical standpoint and at what coast,” says Tom Gray, deputy executive director of the American Wind Energy Association trade group.
The researchers collected and worked with data from the year 2000 at 1,327 surface wind stations and 87 soundings, or profiles of wind speeds at different heights. Wind speeds were fast enough at 24% of the measurement stations to generate electricity at a direct cost equal to a power plant fueled by coal or natural gas.
The study also discovered that North Carolina, Louisiana, and Texas had fast winds at coastal and offshore sites, and overall, 37% of U.S. shoreline and offshore locations packed strong winds. The states of Oklahoma, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, and Nebraska topped the list of states with the most powerful winds.
Wind power accounts for less than 1% of the nation’s energy supply, while coal and natural gas together generate about two thirds of the electricity.