Wind energy has been used since at least 200 B.C. for grinding grain and pumping water. By late 1900, windmills were used on farms and ranches in the U.S. to pump water and, eventually, to produce electricity. Windmills developed into modern day wind turbines. Today, large modern wind turbines operate together on wind farms to generate electricity for utilities. Small turbines are used to help meet localized needs for energy.
Wind energy accounts for 6 percent of renewable electricity generation and 0.1 percent of total energy supply. About 20 percent of installed wind energy capacity is on federal lands. The U.S. has many areas with abundant wind energy potential, namely in the West, the Great Plains, and in New England. For instance, Nevada, which has a large potential for wind development, approximately 46% of 22 million acres of land administered by the bureau has commercial energy development potential. For the California wind energy project, the 2,960 wind turbines installed on public land outside of Palm Springs have the capacity to generate 315megawatt hours of electrical power, enough to supply the needs of about 300,000 people.
For a map showing wind resource potential for the U.S., see page 6-3 in the National Energy Policy report, May 2001.