Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing sectors of renewable energy in the U.S. Over four per cent of the total electricity in America was generated by wind turbines in 2013, which is equivalent to the annual electricity use for about 12 million households. Now, showing the power of wind energy, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has created an interactive map that shows the 47,000 ground-based wind turbines in the country. This special map uses high-resolution aerial imagery and data from the Federal Aviation Administration to create a national chart that can be zoomed in on to see specific facilities and even individual turbines. The map supports the rapidly growing numbers for wind energy.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s report, 20% Wind Energy by 2030, projects that wind power could supply 20 per cent of all U.S. electricity by that date. These numbers tell the tale: even without a comprehensive national energy policy, wind power is on its way to becoming a well-established source in the renewable energy market. Therefore, this USGS wind map will help to assess the impacts of wind energy development on wildlife at a national scale.
Knowing the location of individual turbines, as well as information such as the make, model, height, area of the turbine blades and capacity creates new opportunities for research and important information for land, and resource management. For example, turbine-level data will improve scientists’ ability to study wildlife collisions, the wakes causes by wind turbines, the interaction between wind turbines and ground based radar, and how wind energy facilities overlap with migratory flyways.
This fascinating map reveals clusters of wind farms in regions where you might expect to find them—in the windy plains of Texas and Oklahoma, and in some unexpected areas: the rolling hills, forests, and farm lands of Iowa and Minnesota. There are also dense concentrations in the power-hungry Northeast and in California. However, with the exception of a lone facility in Tennessee, there are no wind facilities in the South, a blank spot that requires further study. Sixteen states have installed over 1,000 MW of wind capacity. Texas leads the list, followed by California and Iowa.
Forty percent of all carbon emissions in the U.S. come from the electric power sector. Scientists say “decarbonizing” electricity is critical to holding carbon dioxide to a safer level in the atmosphere, and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change cost effectively. Reducing carbon emissions is high on the American agenda as the financial consequences to future generations and business interests will be a great burden. The country needs an energy transformation and many experts in the U.S. see wind energy as no longer an ‘alternative’ but an imperative.
Photo Credit: USGS
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