Wind Energy

Wind Energy and Wind Turbines

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Enercon E-66 wind energy converter in Egeln/Germany. The tower is 98m high and the rotor diameter is 70m. (By Hadhuey (photo taken by Hadhuey) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Since 1999 the United States’ installed capacity of wind-produced electricity has grown from 2,000 mW to 28,635 mW, which is enough energy to power the equivalent of more than 6.5 million homes.[1]

A functioning turbine can provide electricity directly to a building or other application as a “stand-alone,” or “off-grid” system, or it can be connected to the transmission grid.[2] Hybrid systems can combine wind, solar, and, for example, a diesel or biogas electric generator to provide holistic energy security for off-grid systems.[3]

A small wind turbine is one that generates 100 kilowatts (“kWs”)[4] or less, and is generally used to produce clean, emissions-free power for individual homes, farms and businesses.[5]  As compared to large commercial turbines that may be 300 feet tall and are capable of producing several megawatts (“mWs”) of electricity, small wind turbines may have a 40-foot rotor mounted on a 130-foot tall tower, and cost thousands rather than hundreds of thousands of dollars to construct.[6] Unlike utility-scale turbines, small wind turbines offer increased siting flexibility and can be used on properties as small as one acre.[7] The electrical output of small wind turbines also avoids some of the capacity restraints on the grid’s distributions lines that cause problems for larger, commercial turbines.[8]

caption Wind turbine in southern Alberta, Canada. Source: Saikat Basu, own work.


1^ This estimate is accurate as of April 30, 2009. See U.S. Dept. of Energy, Wind Powering America, available at (last visited Dec. 15, 2009).

2^ Texas State Energy Conservation Office, Small Wind Systems, available at (last visited Dec. 15, 2009).

3^ Texas State Energy Conservation Office,Small Wind Systems, available at (last visited Dec. 15, 2009).

4^ 1,000 kW = 1 mW. Similarly, 1,000 kWh = 1 mWh. For a detailed explanation see American Wind Energy Association, How Much Electricity Can One Turbine Generate (2009), available at (last visited Dec. 15, 2009).

5^ American Wind Energy Association, Small Wind, available at (last visited Dec. 15, 2009)

6^ Kevin L Shaw & Richard D. Deutsch, Wind Power and Other Renewable Energy Projects: The New Wave of Power Project Development on Indian Lands, 5 Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Institute Paper No. 9, 5, (2005).

7^ American Wind Energy Association,FAQ For Small Wind Systems, available at (last visited Dec. 15, 2009); See also Canadian Wind Energy Association, Planning for Your Small Wind Turbine, available at (last visited Dec. 15, 2009) (stating that “Small wind is great if [y]ou have at least 1/2 acre of property with good wind[]”).

8^ Ryan Thomas Trahan, Social and Regulatory Control of Wind Energy – An Empirical Study of Texas and Kansas, 4 Texas Journal of Oil, Gas, and Energy Law 89, 100 (2004)



Birzon, J. (2014). Wind Energy and Wind Turbines. Retrieved from


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