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New 100-Meter Map Keeps Pace with Growing Wind Technology

July 30, 2014

According to a wind resource assessment published by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009, the United States has a land-based wind energy potential of 10,957 GW at an 80-m wind turbine hub height and 12,771 GW of capacity at 100-m hub heights, assuming a capacity factor of at least 30%. Additionally, an NREL assessment stated that offshore wind energy has a potential of 4,150 GW within 50 nautical miles of shore at a 90-m hub height with wind speeds greater than 7.0 m/s. To develop that potential, the wind industry must first be able to identify the best areas for development.

For more than a decade, NREL has worked with AWS Truepower to develop wind resource maps that keep pace with the advancing technology and rapidly growing industry by identifying the wind resource potential across the United States. According to the 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report, the average wind turbine hub height has increased from 70 m to more than 80 m since 2004, and wind turbine rotor diameters increased from 70 m to 97 m. Larger rotors, taller towers, and better siting techniques have enabled wind developers to increase power production while simultaneously reducing costs.

In 2012, 15% of turbine installed capacity had hub heights of 100 m or higher. This large jump from only 3.5% of turbine installed capacity in 2011 illustrates a strong trend towards taller hub heights as well as the need to characterize the wind resource at 100 m and taller. In 2014, NREL and AWS Truepower released a 100-m map to help provide the information needed to identify areas of development for these larger wind technologies.

—Kelly Yaker