DOE updates resource maps to reflect advances in turbine technology 

Source: Ariel Wittenberg, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, December 12, 2014

The Department of Energy has drawn new maps of the country’s wind power capacity to keep up with advances in turbine technology.

Updated maps released today show how taller wind turbines with higher nacelles and longer blades can harness significant amounts of wind power in areas where shorter turbines would be still.

Wind resource maps are meant to demonstrate an area’s wind energy capacity factor by highlighting areas of the country where wind speeds would allow a wind farm to produce at least 35 percent of the electricity it could potentially produce if it were running continuously at full power.

Previous maps have depicted areas with a wind energy capacity of at least 35 percent for wind turbines whose hubs and nacelles are at heights of 80 to 100 meters (262 to 328 feet). The new maps now include taller turbines with hub heights up to 140 meters.

DOE has been working with the wind industry to produce taller wind turbines with longer blades because wind speeds are often greater at higher altitudes, thus increasing energy production potential. The agency estimates that deploying turbines with hub heights up to 140 meters would help access 237,000 square miles of the United States with 1,800 gigawatts in wind power resource potential.

The new maps depict that change, rating wind potential in shades of blue, with darker hues indicating more wind.

A map showing wind potential at 110 meters leaves much of the Southeast — from Alabama to Florida and Virginia — white. By comparison, the new map of wind potential at 140 meters colors much of the same area in a cerulean shade.

The maps do not include areas protected by law such as national parks.