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Wind turbines are soaring to record sizes. The average rotor diameter of turbines installed in 2016 grew to 354 feet, up 127 percent since 1998–1999 and 13% over the previous 5-year average. | National Renewable Energy Laboratory photo
This article is part of the Energy.gov series highlighting the "Top Things You Didn't Know About..." series. Be sure to check back for more entries soon.
10. Human civilizations have harnessed wind power for thousands of years. Early forms of windmills used wind to crush grain or pump water. Now, modern wind turbines use the wind to create electricity. Learn how a wind turbine works.
9. Today’s wind turbines are much more complicated machines than the traditional prairie windmill. A wind turbine has as many as 8,000 different components.
8. Wind turbines are big. Wind turbine blades average over 170 feet long, and turbine towers average over 270 feet tall -- about the height of the Statue of Liberty.
7. Higher wind speeds mean more electricity, and wind turbines are getting taller to reach higher heights above ground level where it’s even windier. See the Energy Department’s wind resource maps to find average wind speeds in your state or hometown and learn more about how taller wind turbines can expand developable areas for wind energy production in the Energy Department's 2015 Enabling Wind Power Nationwide report.
6. Most of the components of wind turbines installed in the United States are manufactured here. There are 500 wind-related manufacturing facilities located across 41 states, and the U.S. wind industry currently employs more than 101,000 people.
5. Offshore wind represents a major opportunity to provide power to highly populated coastal cities, and the nation’s first offshore wind farm was installed off the coast of Rhode Island in 2016. See what the Energy Department is doing to develop offshore wind in the United States.
4. With North Carolina’s first utility-scale wind farm coming online in early 2017, there is now utility-scale wind power installed in 41 states. There is distributed wind installed in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
3. The United States’ wind power capacity surpassed 82 gigawatts at the end of 2016, making it the largest renewable generation capacity in the United States. That’s enough electricity to power more than 20 million average American homes.
2. Wind energy is affordable. Wind prices for power contracts signed in the last few years and levelized wind prices (the price the utility pays to buy power from a wind farm) are as low as 2 cents per kilowatt-hour in some areas of the country. These rock-bottom prices are recorded by the Energy Department’s annual Wind Technologies Market Report.
1. By 2050, the United States has the potential to create 600,000 jobs, save consumers $149 billion, and save 260 billion gallons of water by continuing to increase the amount of wind energy that powers our homes, schools and businesses. In 2015, the Energy Department released Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States, which quantifies the economic, social, and environmental benefits of a robust wind energy future through 2050.