Wind energy in the United States currently produces roughly 17 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. This amount is equal to powering approximately 1.6 million average American homes for a full year. Generally, a usual one-megawatt turbine generates enough electricity for 300 homes.

Wind turbines are efficient and one way to simply measure overall efficiency is to examine the “energy payback”. Energy payback is the amount of energy it takes to produce a particular amount of energy. The energy payback of time for wind is very comparable to conventional plants, if not better! In a recent study, the University of Wisconsin-Madison identified the average energy payback of Midwestern wind farms to be between 17 and 39 times as much energy as they consume compared to generation of 16 times for power plants and 11 times for coal plants. Remember, they also produce electricity from a natural, renewable resource without emitting any greenhouse gas emissions!

As far as operating costs, wind energy tends to be more expensive than other traditional power technologies in up-front, capital costs. However, rapid price fluctuations and supply problems are significant issues for fossil-fuel generated energy. But with no fuel costs involved for wind energy, along with the low operations/maintenance cost across a wind farm’s life span, this renewable energy source is now very competitive with traditional ones. Furthermore, with the Production Tax Credit (PTC), state-of-the-art wind power plants can generate electricity for less than 5 cents/kWh, which is also cost-competitive with other fossil-fuel generating energy sources. For example, the new wind farm being built near Lamar (MN?) by Xcel Energy will save consumer $4.6 billion in their power bills!

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