Inside The Wind Power Report: 10 Geeky Facts

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 the pretty picture.

Shepherds Flat wind farm, near Arlington, Ore. (image via DOE/Caithness Energy)

Shepherds Flat wind farm, near Arlington, Ore. (image via DOE/Caithness Energy)

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 and more than 1,000 turbines soared at least 100 meters. 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 Lubbok and Abeline in windy West Texas, with 4,829 MW of installed capacity. That’s 8 percent of the nation’s total.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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