27 States Could Be Self-Sufficient in Wind

By Editors

Wind resources are fairly unevenly distributed across the country with the highest concentrations in the Midwest while the Southeast is virtually devoid of potential.

The map illustrates the percentage of each state's electrical demand that could be met with onshore wind energy. Concentrations of 100 percent or more are shaded in the darkest blue while concentrations below 10 percent are shaded in white, with pale blue and light blue in between.

The Midwest is indeed the "Saudi Arabia of Wind" as a result of the jet stream currents that roar down from Canada.  Low population density adds to the potential for self-sufficiency.  South Dakota could produce 350 times its electrical demand from wind with North Dakota and Montana not far behind.  Several visionaries have even proposed we power the entire country by covering one or more of these states with windmills.  Texas also has very powerful wind current and the state now has 10,000 megawatts of installed capacity, double that of California and Iowa, its closest competitors. 

Those regions that lie outside the jet stream's main path, however, have far less potential. California, surprisingly, is fed only by ocean breezes, even though it has invested heavily in wind. Nevada is also relatively windless, despite its flat terrain. But the real deficit occurs in the Southeast, where there are no continent-wide wind currents. Here windmills must be located atop mountains or offshore to have any effect.

Of course putting windmills in remote areas of the Midwest means much of the electricity would have to be transmitted to population centers along lengthy transmission lines. This infrastructure has been promised for some time but is not yet taking shape.  The costs are high, transmission losses add up and there are often objections from peope in between.  In the end, building pipelines to carry oil and gas from North Dakota's Bakken Formation to metropolitan areas may be an easier and cheaper task.

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