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Technology Advances Could Open New Regions to Wind Development

In May 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy released a report outlining how “near-future” wind turbine technology can significantly increase the technical potential for wind energy in the United States and expand the area of the country where wind could be economic.

Key Details

  • The report defines technical potential as an area capable of achieving 30% net capacity factor with available wind turbine technology
  • The report compares the technical potential of wind to a representative 2008 turbine, representative 2013 turbine, and “near-future turbine technology”
  • The near-future turbine technology increases rotor size (i.e., blades) and hub height (i.e., tower)
    • Rotor diameter increases from a 2013 U.S. average of 97 meters to 124 meters
    • Hub height increases from 80 meters to 110 meters and 140 meters
  • The analysis finds turbine technology advancements vastly improve and expand the technical potential of wind energy (see maps below)
    • Near-future turbine technology at 140 meters hub height increases technical potential of wind in the United States by 67% compared to a representative 2013 turbine
    • Technical potential improves from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast, as well as portions of the Great Lakes Regions, the Ohio River Valley, and the Northeast
    • Technical potential expands to large portions of the Southeast and Appalachia where wind resources are not sufficient for current technologies
  • The analysis excludes areas banning development (e.g., national parks) and areas unlikely to be developed (e.g., urban areas)


Wind development has hit a plateau as the PTC is set to expire and most of the top-tier locations have been developed. Increasing rotor size and hub heights can dramatically expand the technical wind potential in the United States. The wind industry will need these technological advancements in order to sustain robust long-term growth in the absence of the federal production tax credit and the saturation of traditional wind sites.

More Information

Press Release: Energy Department Releases Report, Evaluates Potential for Wind Power in All 50 States

Full Report: Enabling Wind Potential Nationwide

This report is part of the Clean Tech & Sustainability Minute series. To view all featured Minutes, please click here.

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Contributing Authors

Paul Quinlan Clean Tech Manager

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