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Wind Energy Resources and Technologies

Photo of two wind turbines standing on a mountain in front of a cloudy blue sky.

The Department of Energy tests wind
turbine technologies and deployment
applications at the National Wind
Technology Center.

This page provides a brief overview of wind energy resources and technologies supplemented by specific information to apply wind energy within the Federal sector.

Overview

Federal agencies can harvest wind energy to generate electricity or mechanical power (e.g., windmills for water pumping). To generate electricity, wind rotates large blades on a turbine, which spin an internal shaft connected to a generator. The generator produces electricity, the amount of which depends on the size and scale of the turbine. Multiple wind turbine sizes are available and widely implemented across the Federal sector.

Visit the Department of Energy's (DOE) Wind Program to learn more on wind energy basics and technologies.

Federal Application

Photo of multiple wind turbines stand on green space in front of a mountain backdrop.

Dyess Air Force Base
purchased 78 gigawatt-hours of
wind energy.

Wind energy is a viable source of renewable energy in the Federal sector. Before conducting an assessment or deploying wind energy, Federal agencies must evaluate a series of questions.

What are my energy goals?

Energy goals range from meeting regulatory requirements to powering remote applications to increasing energy security. Wind energy, if applied properly, is suitable for each.

  • Regulatory Requirements: Electricity produced by wind energy falls under the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005 definition of renewable energy and can be used to meet EPAct 2005 renewable energy requirements. However, wind energy for mechanical power does not meet the EPAct 2005 renewable energy definition or requirements.

  • Remote Power: Wind turbines, depending on size, can be used for remote power. It is important to note that wind energy resources can be intermittent, so storage technologies or backup generators must also be in place if around-the-clock power is needed. These systems are often referred to as hybrid solutions.

  • Energy Security: Wind is a natural, renewable energy source found in abundance across the U.S. It is an intermittent energy resource, but can reduce utility peak demand for increased energy security.

What kind of energy do I use?

Federal agencies must understand what type of energy is used before determining if wind energy is applicable. Wind can be used for electricity or mechanical power, but is not appropriate for thermal applications.

When do I need the energy?

Although wind resources can be quite predictable, wind energy cannot be guaranteed to generate power where and when it is demanded like a fossil fuel generator so it is considered an intermittent resource. Storage technologies or backup power supplies must be in place if around-the-clock power is needed.

How much power do I use/need to produce?

Multiple sizes of wind turbines are available to meet almost all energy production requirements.

  • Large turbines [100 kilowatts (kW) to 5 megawatts (MW)] are used as central-station wind farms, distributed power, and offshore wind generating stations. Large turbines are a good choice for electricity generation where:
    • Cost of conventional power exceeds $0.08 per kW hour (kWh)
    • Annual electricity consumption exceeds 100,000 kWh
    • Wind resources are 5.6 meters per second (12.5 mph-DOE Class 3) or better
    • Several acres of land (or more) are available
  • Community-scale turbines are used to power midsized facilities and small communities. These turbines can be cost-effective if:
    • More energy is needed than small turbines allow, but not enough to turn to large-scale equipment
  • Small turbines [100 kW or less] are used for remote applications, such as battery charging, water pumping, telecommunication sites, village power, hybrid systems, and distributed power. Small turbines can be cost-effective if:
    • Electricity costs are fairly high ($0.12-$0.70 per kWh)
    • Electric grid would have to be extended more than 1 kilometer (0.6 mile)
    • Annual electricity consumption exceeds 300 kWh
Where am I located?

Wind resources are available across the U.S., but vary greatly depending on exact location and micro-climate. The central plains states typically hold the highest concentration of wind energy resources. For a broad overview of your facility's wind resources, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) provides wind energy resource maps of the U.S.

Before initiating a project, wind resources in your area must be measured and verified. Resource maps are a good start, but resources vary significantly at a micro level. It is important to consult an expert for a professional evaluation before implementing wind energy projects.

Is a lot of open land available?

Wind turbines require a lot of open land free of wind obstructions. If open land is not available, wind energy may not be the best solution. Wind turbines also demand multiple environmental and logistical considerations, including bird and animal migration routes and the use of radar. It is important to consult an expert to determine whether wind energy is a good fit for your Federal facility.

What is my budget?

Wind energy systems vary in price, as does the cost of installation, operation, and maintenance. The following factors play a role in the cost of wind turbines:

  • Cost of the turbine itself
  • Construction costs
  • Interconnection fees
  • Metering equipment
  • Maintenance and repair

Grid-connected applications of large wind turbines typically range in cost from $0.04 to $0.10 per kWh. Small wind turbine energy costs range from $0.07 to $0.15 per kWh. For standalone applications of small wind turbines, energy costs typically range from $0.08 to $0.30 per kWh.

What resources are available for operations and maintenance?

Turbines are designed for a long life (up to 20 years) and operate automatically. However, it is important to factor operations and maintenance costs and staffing needs in any facility energy management plan.

Next steps

Visit the project planning section for detailed information on planning and deploying renewable energy projects. Federal case studies are available to provide specific examples of viable wind energy projects.

Resources

Detailed information on wind energy resources and technologies is available through:

  • DOE Wind Program: Provides additional information and resources through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

  • Wind Powering America: Committed to increasing the use of wind energy in the United States.

  • American Wind Energy Association: Promotes wind energy as a clean source of electricity worldwide.

  • Utility Wind Interest Group: Accelerates the development and application of good engineering and operational practices supporting the appropriate integration of wind power into the electric system.

  • Windustry: Promotes progressive renewable energy solutions and empowers communities to develop and own wind energy as an environmentally sustainable asset.