A study in 1992  recalculated estimates of windy land area and wind electric potential based on a more accurate mapping of environmental exclusion areas and a moderate land exclusion scenario. These new estimates were about 1% to 2% higher than the preliminary estimates made in 1991 based on the same land exclusion scenario. Overall, even with land being excluded from wind energy development for environmental and land-use considerations, the amount of windy land available and potential electric power from wind energy is surprisingly large. The amount of windy land available for power class 4 and above is approximately 460,000 square kilometers, or about 6% of the total land area in the contiguous United States. The potential average power from areas with class 4 and higher, which are suitable for development with advanced wind turbine technology, is estimated at 500,000 MW. If future generation technology is utilized to take advantage of areas with wind resource class 3 and higher, then the amount of windy land available is over 1,000,000 square kilometers, or almost 14% of the land area in the contiguous United States. Moreover, the estimates show that a group of 12 states in the midsection of the country have enough wind energy potential to produce nearly four times the amount of electricity consumed by the nation in 1990.
Although the nation's wind potential is very large, only part of it can be exploited economically. The economic viability of wind power will vary from utility to utility. Important factors not addressed in this study that influence land availability and wind electric potential include production/demand match (seasonal and daily), transmission and access constraints, public acceptance, and other technological and institutional constraints.
To provide 20% of the nation's electricity, only about 0.6% of the land of the lower 48 states would have to be developed with wind turbines. Furthermore, less than 5% of this land would be occupied by wind turbines, electrical equipment, and access roads. Most existing land use, such as farming and ranching, could remain as it is now.
The considerable wind electric potential has not been tapped before because wind turbine technology was not able to utilize this resource. However, during the past decade, increased knowledge of wind turbine behavior has led to more cost-effective wind turbines that are more efficient in producing electricity. The price of the electricity produced from wind by these advanced turbines is estimated to be competitive with conventional sources of power, including fossil fuels. Because of the increasing competitiveness of wind energy, wind resource assessment will become essential in incorporating wind energy into the nation's energy mix. For example, the 1992 study  also produced gridded maps of wind electric potential and windy land area for the 48 contiguous states that show the distribution of these features with in individual states, thus enabling utilities and wind energy developers to identify promising areas for wind energy. The importance of accurate wind resource assessment is also recognized in other parts of the world.
Detailed wind resource assessments have been proposed or are being considered as part of a plan to increase the use of wind energy in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and other regions. The decreasing cost of wind power and the growing interest in renewable energy sources should ensure that wind power will become a viable energy source in the United States and worldwide.
Good post, thanks for the info and links.
There is a difference between "Line Loss" and "Transmission Loss". Every time the power hits a substation or transformer you take an additional 3-5% hit.
feets_dont_failme_now, do you know what percentage of Hydroelectric power gets distributed to place like CA. I know that during the CA power problems, it was an unusually bad summer for this important resource.
Thanks for the World Bank link. It just shows that it is very wasteful to generate power far from where that power is to be used. Such is the interest in fuel cells, micro gas turbines, flywheels and PV.
Earlier windmills did have pretty good bird kills, because of some placed in mountain passes along migration routes, and they used an open construction (think of the old-time windmills on the prairies for pumping water, with the lattice steel frame). This gave an enticing perch for birds to sit on, before they'd fly off and get whacked.
Newer windmills are enclosed, looking more like the base of a standard water tower. This doesn't give birds a place to sit, so the kill rate is significantly lower. Also, the blades are bigger, which rotate slower. They can still take out a bird obviously, but it's more likely the bird can see the danger and have their little brain process it in time to fly out of the way on the blade.
I've heard some locals saying that the windmills are changing the weather patterns because they're slowing all that wind, but this is just among the less-educated group. Obviously the miles and miles of windbreaks they planted with their parents after the Dust Bowl years make a much bigger difference (to the wind as well as affecting evaporation, ground shading, water uptake, etc.).
The Ultra Greens are against EVERYTHING, up to and including the existence of human presence on this planet. "Until such time as we can learn to live in harmony with nature, some of us can only hope the right virus comes along" -Former director of Greenpeace.
RE Electrical system losses: Here is a link to the World Bank.
Probably (would be) significantly less in the States, but if you are talking about generating electricity in North Dakota and using it in LA, I think the losses would be significantly greater that 15%.
Gas turbine plants are constructed relatively near the end users so as to minimize transmission losses.
Another poster on the board mentioned building hydrogen pipelines. That is pure fantasy in that the pipeline and compression costs would make it uneconomical.
I have also heard (but have no first hand knowledge of) that the ultra greens are actually against wind power in some instances because large turbine farms disrupt bird migratory patterns and can kill alot of birds. Has anyone else heard of this?
<line losses can approach 40%. >
First time I have ever heard of 40% loses...can you provide a link...Also...with those type of loses....how can CA purchase much of their energy from out of state ?
Does make sense.
Also...everytime that a new gas turbine generator goes on line...and there are lots of them ...with lots more coming.....they are looking at 40% loses ?
Please explain...I'm all ears.
"So....it's ok for the fossil fuel powered plants to have line loss (of about 15%) but its not ok for wind mills ?"
No, my point was that it will cost big $ to expand the grid in order to accomodate this wind power. Even if that could be done economically, it defeats the whole purpose of distributed generation.
Also, depending on distance, voltage, transmission medium, etc - line losses can approach 40%. This is likely going to be the case if you are talking about generating power in the Dakotas and shipping it to the coast(s).
A very similar situation to stranded natural gas. There are many places where the gas is abundant and cheap, but no demand for it and no infrastructure to transport it. A couple of projects have tried Gas-to-Wire, but the economics just don't work.
It has been said (by detractors of course) that the availability wind power is too erratic to be considered as the sole source of energy. It seems to me that it would be perfectly suited to the production of hydrogen. From the figures given, it would also seem that enough hydrogen could be generated to fuel the entire car/truck population of the USA, whenever they all are using fuel cells.
Irratic wind ? ...Yes...that is windnill hybrids come in. Store energy in another form for use when wind isn't blowing. There are a number of ways to do this...compressed air, produce H2 to drive a fuel cell when wind isn't blowing, pump water back up ..over a dam...and a few others.
You are correct in saying...lets make H2...but wind energy can be used as base load for the grid. All you need do is continue to watch events in Germany and their build up of wind energy. Never have I read that these issues of irratic wind or base load are a problem. They just continue to build out.
* "The wind resource of the Western and Midwestern states is bigger in energy terms than the oil resources of Saudi Arabia." The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates Saudi Arabia's remaining oil reserves at 261 billion barrels, or enough for about 90 years at the current production rate of 8 million barrels a day. If burned to produce electricity, that amount of oil would generate about 153 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh). The Pacific Northwest Laboratory, a U.S. federal lab, has estimated the U.S. wind resource as being capable of producing 10.8 trillion kWh annually. Thus, in 15 years, U.S. winds could generate more electricity than all of Saudi Arabia's oil without being depleted. If wind is compared directly with oil in raw energy terms, the comparison is less advantageous (because 2/3 of the energy in a barrel of oil is lost when it is burned to generate electricity). Even so, in 45 years, U.S. winds could produce more energy than Saudi oil reserves, and again, without being depleted.
< < The Pacific Northwest Laboratory, a U.S. federal lab, has estimated the U.S. wind resource as being capable of producing 10.8 trillion kWh annually. > >
OK, Pete, follow this for a moment. Per the above, the U.S. wind resource is 10.8 trillioin KWH annually. A previous poster's link (maybe yours) showed that the US uses 3.7 annually, so the total wind resource is about 3X what we currently use.
Now if I go to your cute little maps, and click on each and every state, I see a lot of class 4 and above areas. Now without adding them all up by uploading them on my computer and measuring them exactly, I can easily deduce a few things. 1. It is a hell of a lot of area, certainly more than a Montana county. 2. The total area divided by three probably equals the three state estimate, 3. It is going to take one hell of a lot of windmills to cover that area.
But anyway, I did find them informative and I appreciate your posting them.