Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Climatology Favors Wind Farms in Red States

An article in today's New York Times highlights how the five states that get the largest percentage of their power from wind are red states (Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and North Dakota).

Source: New York Times
The reasons for this are multifaceted, but one that is not discussed explicitly in the article is climatology.

On a regional scale, the highest average annual wind speeds at 80 meters above ground (roughly turbine height) are found in the upper Great Plains.  This so-called "wind corridor" includes large portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota. All of these states were "red" in the last Presidential election.
Source: AWS Truepower/NREL
There are pockets of good wind power potential elsewhere, but if Arizona is the Saudi Arabia of solar, then the upper Great Plains are the Saudi Arabia of wind.  And, to no surprise, a great deal of wind power development and production can be found in those states.

Source: New York Times
In fact, the state with the largest installed wind power capacity, by a fairly wide margin is Texas.  

Source: By Aflafla1 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Iowa also stands out and, according to the New York Times article, had the highest fraction of power generated by the wind of any state in 2016.  

And now you know why.  The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind. 


  1. NPR had a great story about this a couple months back. Much of it is attitude towards land. They spent time driving around Oklahoma and noticed farmers there draw multiple checks, one for their farm, another for any oil drawn on their property, another for wind power generated, etc. The attitude out there is "use the land". They showed this was in contrast to people in cities who feel land needs to be protected for beauty.

    That map is very interesting. Seems Nebraska has potential to explode with wind power.

  2. I wonder how much of this has to do with labor markets and regulatory environments as well. (obviously I didn't read the actual article--who needs to read the source when you can get the scoop on WWW!)