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Keywords:

  • U.S. wind power;
  • least squares;
  • global warming;
  • air pollution;
  • energy;
  • wind speed

[1] This is a study to quantify U.S. wind power at 80 m (the hub height of large wind turbines) and to investigate whether winds from a network of farms can provide a steady and reliable source of electric power. Data from 1327 surface stations and 87 soundings in the United States for the year 2000 were used. Several methods were tested to extrapolate 10-m wind measurements to 80 m. The most accurate, a least squares fit based on twice-a-day wind profiles from the soundings, resulted in 80-m wind speeds that are, on average, 1.3–1.7 m/s faster than those obtained from the most common methods previously used to obtain elevated data for U.S. wind power maps, a logarithmic law and a power law, both with constant coefficients. The results suggest that U.S. wind power at 80 m may be substantially greater than previously estimated. It was found that 24% of all stations (and 37% of all coastal/offshore stations) are characterized by mean annual speeds ≥6.9 m/s at 80 m, implying that the winds over possibly one quarter of the United States are strong enough to provide electric power at a direct cost equal to that of a new natural gas or coal power plant. The greatest previously uncharted reservoir of wind power in the continental United States is offshore and nearshore along the southeastern and southern coasts. When multiple wind sites are considered, the number of days with no wind power and the standard deviation of the wind speed, integrated across all sites, are substantially reduced in comparison with when one wind site is considered. Therefore a network of wind farms in locations with high annual mean wind speeds may provide a reliable and abundant source of electric power.