The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released new estimates of the nation's potential for wind-generated electricity, tripling previous estimates.

The new study, conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and AWS Truewind, finds that the contiguous 48 states have the potential to generate up to 37 million gigawatt-hours annually. By contrast, total U.S. electricity generation from all sources was roughly 4 million gigawatt-hours in 2009. The estimates show the total energy yield that could be generated using current wind-turbine technology on the nation's windy lands.

The new estimates reflect advances in wind-turbine technology since the DOE's last national wind-resource assessment in 1993. For example, previous wind-resource maps showed predicted average wind speeds at a height of 50 m, which was the height of most wind-turbine towers at the time. The new maps show predicted average wind speeds at an 80-m height, the height of today's turbines. Because wind speed generally increases with height, turbines built on taller towers can capture more energy and generate more electricity. The new estimates also incorporate updated capacity factors.

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