What is Wind Energy?

The term "wind energy" (or "wind power") refers to the "process by which the wind is used to generate mechanical power or electricity."[1] Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy generated by the wind into mechanical power. This power can then be used for specific tasks, or it can be converted into electricity with the use of a generator. Wind turbines can provide energy for onsite use, as well as for export or sale. The energy needs of the application or customer will correlate to the size of the wind turbine. For example, small turbines below 100 kilowatts (kW) may be used to power homes, whereas utility-scale turbines (ranging from 100 kW to several megawatts (MW)) are often grouped together to form wind farms, which then provide bulk power to the electric grid.[2]

As of 2020, the U.S. had a total installed wind power capacity of 122,465 MW.[3] In 2020, according to the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 16,836 MW of new utility-scale land-based wind power capacity was added, which represents an investment of $24.6 billion in new wind power projects.[4] Additionally, in the same year, the “U.S. offshore wind energy project development and operational pipeline grew to a potential generating capacity of 35,324 megawatts (MW).” [5] As of January 2022, according to the U.S. Wind Turbine Database (USWTDB), there are more than 70,800 turbines operating in the U.S., spanning at least 44 states (plus Puerto Rico and Guam).[6]

As the fourth-largest source of electricity generation capacity, wind power accounts for 25% of the electricity produced in eight states.[7]  While Texas installed the most capacity in 2020, Iowa supplied 57% of its in-state electricity from wind power.[8] Other states supplying above the 30% metric included Kansas (43%), Oklahoma (35%), South Dakota (33%) and North Dakota (31%). [9]

The U.S. wind industry provided nearly 117,000 jobs in 2020 and employs veterans at a rate of 67% above the national average. [10] The offshore wind market represents an opportunity for the U.S. to bolster the economy and create more jobs in clean energy. The Biden Administration announced a 30-gigawatt (GW)-by-2030 goal for national offshore wind energy. [11] To achieve that goal, it will result in approximately 83,000 new jobs. [12] In May 2021, Vineyard Wind I “became the first fully approved commercial offshore wind energy project in the United States” [13] with the goal of delivering clean energy by 2023. [14]

For more information about Offshore Wind, download the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2021 Offshore Wind Market Report. Additionally, download the DOE’s 2021 Land-based Wind Market Report.

Updated by Jennifer Ostromecki, November 2023