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Going to new heights

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has revealed that, over the last 10 years, both wind turbine heights and capacities have risen across the U.S.

The agency collected data on utility-scale electricity generators between 2006 and 2016, finding that the largest currently installed turbines have 6 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity. The distinction for the largest turbines goes to the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, the nation’s only operating utility-scale offshore wind turbines.

Soon two more offshore farms will follow Block Island; the Icebreaker Offshore Wind project on Lake Erie outside of Cleveland, Ohio, will be coming online in 2018 and start of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind is expected in 2021.

The largest onshore turbines, at 4MW each, are both in Texas. The state’s Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, with 420 wind turbines on 47,000 acres, is one of the world’s largest farms.

The EIA also noted that turbines are taller now, averaging 280 feet (80 meters) since 2012 when, before 2006, few even approached that height.

Last year, wind turbines accounted for 8% of operating electric generating capacity in the U.S., passing up hydropower as the top renewable technology.

However, as the agency noted, hydropower still provides more electricity than wind (7% and 6% in 2016, respectively) because of the way wind and hydropower electricity generators operate. Its most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook confirmed that wind generation will not surpass hydro in 2017 or even in 2018.


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