Distributed Wind Energy Is Taking Off

August 10, 2013

Localized, distributed wind energy is becoming increasingly common in the US, according to a new report from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The report makes it clear that it’s becoming increasingly common for Americans to simply install wind turbines directly on — or very close to — their homes, farms, or businesses, for the purpose of generating their own energy.

The new report — The 2012 Market Report on Wind Technologies in Distributed Applications — is essentially the first comprehensive analysis of distributed wind energy development in the US. “Distributed wind energy” refers to wind energy that is generated relatively close to where it’s used — as opposed to large, centralized wind farms, which, in many ways, function similarly to conventional centralized fossil fuel power plants.

“The public often pictures large wind projects with long rows of turbines when they think of wind power,” stated lead author of the new report, Alice Orrell, an energy analyst at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “But this report provides detailed data that shows this image is incomplete. Many of the nation’s turbines are for distributed, not centralized, wind projects.”

Image Credit: Photo courtesy of Vergnet, via NREL

Image Credit: Vergnet, via NREL

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory wrote the report for the Department of Energy, with support from the energy consulting firm eFormative Options, the Distributed Wind Energy Association and the American Wind Energy Association.

Some key points from the report:

  • 68% of all wind turbines installed in US between 2003-2012 were distributed wind turbines, representing about 69,000 turbines that can generate 812 megawatts combined.
  • About a third of all wind turbines installed in the US in 2012 were distributed wind turbines, representing about 3,800 turbines that can generate 175 megawatts combined.
  • While the total number of distributed wind turbines installed in 2012 declined by nearly 50%, the amount of power those new turbines could potentially produce increased by 62%. (In other words, wind turbines are getting bigger and stronger.)



James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.