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Watt's in the News? - Volume 35

BTU Crew Newsletter Volume #27: It’s NOT Blowin’ in the Wind!

Wind farms are the largest source of renewable electricity across the United States1. So, it was a surprise to learn that U.S. wind energy generation fell in 2023. Falling 2.1 percent for the year, it was a complete change from consecutive years of growth for the U.S. wind energy sector. Although there were multiple factors that led to the decline in wind energy last year, weather was the main reason for the drop.

A high-pressure weather system settled over Canada for much of the summer months in 2023. This type of weather tends to keep various cold and warm fronts from approaching. The result is a summer without many changes in atmospheric pressure and temperature. It is those normal temperature and pressure changes that cause the wind to blow. Without these seasonal cold and warm fronts impacting the weather, the average wind was below normal, reducing the amount of electricity produced by wind farms.

This trend didn't only affect the winds of Canada, but also affected the average winds of the upper Midwest of the U.S. Many of the wind farms that provide renewable electricity across the U.S. are located across the Midwest, due to its high average wind velocity. Even though southern plains states such as Texas (up 4.4 percent) and Oklahoma (up 0.5 percent) had increased wind power generation in 2023, fellow wind power producing states such as Iowa (down 8.5 percent), North Dakota (down 9.6 percent), Wyoming (down 9.2 percent), and South Dakota (down 8.8 percent) all experienced declines in wind power generation in 2023. It was the combined decline of these leading wind energy states that led to the overall decline in 2023.  It is also surprising that this decline in wind power generation occurred even though U.S. wind farms capacity in 2023 was up to 144 gigawatts, as compared to a capacity of 137 gigawatts in 2022, according to the EIA.

In a related note, hydroelectric power production in the U.S. also dropped by 5.9 percent in 2023. Weather again played an important factor in this decline as drought across different parts of the country reduced the flow of water through hydroelectric dams. Utility-scale solar showed a rapid increase in 2023, rising 14.4 percent across the country. However, we need to remember that utility-scale solar produces less than half the amount of renewable electricity that wind does.

Will this drop in renewable wind-produced electricity continue this year and into the future, or was 2023 a one-year anomaly? Time will tell. Fortunately, we have a strong electric grid that can provide additional electricity where it is needed, when it is needed. And new technologies are allowing our electric grid to be more flexible each year.

1 Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. (n.d.). What is Wind Power? Retrieved March 21, 2024, from,of%20most%20states%27%20energy%20needs.

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