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wind energy potential

What is Wind Energy?

Wind energy and wind power are slightly different. In this piece, we’ll delve into wind energy a bit. If you’re actually interested in the topic of wind power generated from wind turbines around the world, check out our world wind power page.

–>Note: If you’re looking for the latest wind energy news, check out our wind energy category. We’re a world leader in wind energy coverage and commentary.

Wind energy is “the kinetic energy of air in motion,” as Wikipedia puts it. We won’t get into the formulas used for wind energy and wind power here, but it’s important to note that wind speed has a very large effect on potential wind power. As wind speed doubles, the power available from that wind energy increases 8 times over. In other words, if you want to tap wind energy and use it to create electricity, you really want to be in areas with consistently high wind speeds.

There are many uses of wind energy, but here on CleanTechnica, we are mostly focused on creating electricity from wind energy using wind turbines, so we’re mostly focused on that in our informational pages, as well. Before jumping over to our wind power or wind turbines pages, though, below is some important information on wind energy potential around the US and the world.

Wind Energy Potential, Globally

Some researchers have concluded that there’s enough wind energy available globally to power the world 6 times over. However, it’s only in recent years that we have gotten wind turbine technology to the point where that is possible.

As shared on our solar energy page, you can see projected wind energy potential presented visually in the image below. (And note that renewable energy potential is per year here, while finite energy resource potential represents total recoverable reserves.) While solar represents the most global energy potential, by far, wind energy comes in second and there is approximately 10 times more wind energy potential than the next best resource, hydro energy. It’s also worth noting that wind energy is normally most abundant at night, when the sun has gone down. In other words, solar and wind energy make a good team.

wind energy potential

"Comparing finite and renewable planetary energy reserves (Terawatt‐years). Total recoverable reserves are shown for the finite resources. Yearly potential is shown for the renewables." (source: Perez & Perez, 2009a)

Another fun image is the one below on world wind energy resources distribution (click the link for a larger version). As you can see in this image, there’s a ton of wind energy of a very high degree available offshore. We are just now starting to tap this wind energy resource, and offshore wind energy technology is really in quite a nascent stage. Even with this underdeveloped offshore wind energy technology, however, we are starting to capture a lot of offshore wind energy and convert it into electricity, since this is a cleaner and cheaper option for new electricity than almost anything else. What this graphic clearly shows, though, is that wind energy potential around the world is almost limitless (especially when compared to the amount of energy the world actually needs to convert into electricity).

World Wind Energy Map

Wind Energy in the US

Now, to close, let’s just quickly take a look at wind energy potential in the US, if you want to get into the nitty gritty a little bit. This first map shows wind energy resources, colored by resource potential, and transmission lines in the US (click the link above for a larger version). Clearly, there’s a lot of wind energy potential in the Midwest and along the coasts.

wind energy map

This second graph just highlights offshore wind energy (larger version on NREL’s Wind Powering America page, as well as 26 offshore wind energy state maps):

offshore wind energy map

I think the takeaway point is that we’ve got a ton of wind energy potential in the US and around the world. To see how well different countries are tapping that, or more details on wind energy costs (hint: wind energy is cheap!), the ‘issue’ of intermittency, and projected wind power growth, check out our wind power page.

Or, if you’re interested in the latest news in this sector, check out our wind energy news category.

Wind turbines at top of page courtesy shutterstock

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