NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Where They Call The Wind Electricity

January 8, 2001

Wind power is blossoming in the flat and sparsely populated upper Great Plains -- where the breezes average 15 miles per hour. There, electricity generated by winds is making a comeback after nearly a decade of dormancy.

  • From South Dakota into Iowa, some 670 wind turbine farms generated 520 megawatts by year end 1999 -- up from just 29 megawatts of peak installed power in January of 1998.
  • Nationally, 5.5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity are now produced by wind power each year.
  • But that means subsidies -- with the federal government shelling out 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour in the form of a tax credit given since 1994.
  • Politics also gets into it when some states decide to make utilities buy a certain amount of wind-generated power each year.
  • Experts point out that getting into the wind business requires substantial capital outlays -- with turbines costing $650,000 to $1 million, and transmission lines eating up $100,000 per mile.

Slight variations in location can have a large effect on output since wind power is proportional to the cube of wind speed. That means that a turbine in 12 mile-per-hour winds, for example, produces 30 percent more energy than one operating in 11 mile-per-hour winds.

Source: David Armstrong, "Blow Hard," Forbes, January 8, 2001.


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