We’ve known for months that 2012 was a huge year for wind power in the United States, so the headline from the wind industry’s big annual report released last week – that wind power grew by 28 percent – was a little stale.

But poring over the 108-page document – provided to us on a review basis by the American Wind Energy Association, so no link, sorry – did reveal a healthy list of interesting and sometimes eyebrow-raising factoids for the wind geek to ponder. Check out our 10 favorites below.

1. Turbine Total: There were 45,125 turbines operating in the U.S. at the end of 2012, providing 60,007 MW of cumulative installed capacity.

2. Power on the Grid: All those turbines churned out 140 million megawatt-hours of electricity in 2012. That was 3.5 percent of U.S. electricity production, a big jump from the 2.9 percent wind provided in 2011. And remember, many of those turbines that were spinning at the end of the year didn’t have a full year of production – so even if there were no new installations, production would rise in 2013.

3. Public vs. Private: 59,161 megawatts of the installed U.S. wind capacity is on private land. Just 816 MW – 1.4 percent – is on public land.

4. Small Farms and Big Farms: A lot of wind projects are just a single turbine – 48 of the 183 built last year. Another 15 projects consisted of two turbines. Remove those from the total, and the remaining projects averaged 108 MW.

5. Generational Change: The 6,751 turbines installed in 2012 had an average capacity rating of 1.95 MW. In 1990, the average rating was 250 kW.

6. Ever Higher: Some 2,0000 turbines – around 30 percent of all turbines installed in 2012 – had hub heights over 80 meters (262 feet) and more than 1,000 turbines soared at least 100 meters (328 feet). In 2011, only 10 percent topped 80 meters.

7. GE Dominates: 3,003 of the turbines installed in 2012 were from GE, with second-place Siemens a long way back at 1,116, followed by Vestas at 812. Cumulatively, GE is responsible for 24,085 MW of the 60,007 MW installed, far and away the leader.

8. Who Owns the Wind: NextEra Energy Resources is far and away the leader in “managing ownership” of U.S. wind farms, with 9,814 MW of capacity, just shy of one-sixth of all the capacity in the country. Iberdrola is second at 5,446 MW.

9. Who Uses the Wind: Xcel owns or contracts for 4,897 MW of wind capacity, tops among the nation’s utilities. And in 2012, San Antonio’s CPS Energy became the first municipally owned utility to contract for more than a gigawatt of wind.

10. It’s a Republican Thing: The top eight and nine of the top ten U.S. congressional districts for wind are held by Republicans. Leading the way is Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer’s 19th District in Texas, taking in Lubbock and Abilene in windy West Texas, with 4,829 MW of installed capacity. That’s 8 percent of the nation’s total.

—Pete Danko

This post originally appeared at EarthTechling and has been republished with permission.

Comments

  1. Bob G
    Vermont
    May 1, 2013, 3:49 pm

    We loose an estimated 1 billion Birds to House cats. We have 2000 Jets in the air at anyone time which kill all kinds of Birds at take off and landings. I would be willing to bet Wind Power kills just a tiny fraction of collateral Bird Deaths.

  2. Robert K.
    United States
    April 30, 2013, 10:45 am

    Those wind turbans require a lot of room for just one turbine. In California we have hill sides littered with them and many of them are not in operation. They block people’s view and they take up space from wild life. You want to protect the environment but you are trading off one for the other.
    So there they sit, inactive wind turbines because it costs more to upgrade and maintain them than the revenue they bring in so they are just shut down and littering the hillside.
    Oh yea, sounds like a good idea right now but no one looks at the consequences that lay ahead.

  3. Tom
    USA
    April 30, 2013, 7:06 am

    @Jeff Schrade
    -No, the wind does not blow mostly at night. Actually it typically blows more during the day.
    -As far as killing birds, there have been problems when turbines were placed in migration paths. It is now common to do a study on bird migration paths before placing a turbine. These things have been addressed and the damage mitigated.
    -Indeed, the turbine in Falmouth was placed too close to homes. I think that was in frustration at not being able to place them off-shore. Every time someone pushes to install turbines off the shores of Cape Cod, it quickly gets stamped out. Really the most successful turbines are those in more remote areas, hill and mountain tops, desert valleys and the like. Note that in California, a lot of the turbines are in minimally inhabited deserts.
    -Lastly, natural gas is currently very cheap due to fracking and other technological improvements. How long will it last? Keep in mind that any fossil fuel is taking carbon that had been captured and stored below ground and releasing it into the atmosphere. Wind turbines don’t do that.

  4. Tim Wenzel
    Washington State
    April 29, 2013, 4:50 pm

    @Rob B, et al…It’s not really a Democrat or Republican thing as far as all that. True, one Republican in Texas just happens to be big into wind power, but is this really in relation to population density? No…not if you look at the distribution of the political parties amongst some of what one would think of as “sparsely” populated. For example, California’s largest population densities account for less than 10% of the land area. Virtually the same goes for Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, etc. There are actually very few states in the US which could not push a viable wind program, they just have not chosen to do so for whatever reason. Not enough land is not a reasonable excuse.

  5. Jeff Schrade
    USA
    April 25, 2013, 6:13 pm

    Wind power will continue to be a player, but it’s not a good electric source when you need it. First, the wind blows mostly at night… when electricity is needed the least. And in the summer, when muggy places like Washington, DC, need electricity the most, the wind often doesn’t blow at all.

    Secondly, in places like California, wind farms blight the land visually because they require tremendous amounts acreage mass, and the whirling blades kill eagles, bats and other birds. The federal government now issues “takings” permits to allow wind farms to kill golden eagles and other birds.

    Third, those living near the blades have to put up with the constant noise, which some people find intollerable. Two wind turbines towering above the Cape Cod community of Falmouth, Mass. were intended to produce green energy and savings. But one resident told the press the noise is “jet-engine loud,” and many residents wanted them torn down. (Locals voted to keep them up.)

    Fourth, it’s worth noting that he Energy Information Administration forecasts that in 2018 an advanced natural gas-fired plant will have a 24 percent lower cost per megawatt-hour than an onshore wind unit. And that is inclusive of its fuel cost.

    All this is not to say that wind power is bad. It’s not. It’s just no silver bullet.

  6. Rob B
    United States
    April 23, 2013, 1:56 pm

    The reason for #10 is that Republican districts are often sparsely populated areas whereas Democrats dominate in urban areas. Sort of hard to create a wind farm in the middle of a neighborhood.

    That said, you’d think the GOP would support more wind power production since it brings sustainable development to their districts and moves away from an over-reliance on union jobs at chemical plants.