What State Has The Largest Wind Capacity?

Wind energy capacity refers to the maximum amount of energy that can be generated by wind turbines in a particular area. It is an important metric for measuring the growth and adoption of wind power across different states in the U.S. Assessing wind capacity by state allows us to understand which states are leading in wind energy development and where there is still room for expansion.

With wind power playing an increasingly vital role in meeting renewable energy goals, tracking wind capacity helps identify new opportunities and challenges. Examining the top states for wind capacity also highlights the policy, economic and geographic factors that enable wind energy growth.

What is Wind Energy Capacity?

Wind energy capacity refers to the maximum amount of energy that can be generated at a specific wind energy project or within a geographical region. It represents the total power output potential of installed wind turbines.

Wind capacity is measured in megawatts (MW). This represents the sum of each wind turbine’s maximum energy production capacity in a given area. For example, if a wind farm has 100 wind turbines each with 2MW capacity, the total wind energy capacity for that wind farm would be 200MW.

Capacity factor is another important metric that measures how much energy wind turbines actually produce over time compared to their maximum capacity. The capacity factor provides a real-world estimate of average energy generation.

Current Leader in Wind Capacity

According to data from February 2024, Texas has the largest installed wind capacity in the United States at 36,008.9 megawatts, which is 27.1% of the nation’s total wind capacity.

Growth of Wind in the Top State

Texas has seen dramatic growth in its wind power capacity over the last couple of decades. According to the Wikipedia article on Wind Power in Texas, the state built its first wind farm in 1981 near McCamey. Growth was relatively slow initially, with less than 1 GW of capacity by 2000. But things changed in the 2000s as favorable policies, ample wind resources, and declining costs drove rapid expansion of wind farms across West and North Texas.

Some key milestones in Texas wind power history include:

  • 1999 – First wind farms built in Texas Panhandle
  • 2005 – Texas surpasses California as national leader in wind power capacity
  • 2010 – 10 GW milestone reached
  • 2014 – Over 12 GW installed, providing 10% of Texas electricity
  • 2017 – 20 GW milestone reached

According to the Scientific American article The Rise of Wind Power in Texas, Texas added over 2 GW of new wind capacity in just the first quarter of 2017 as developers rushed to qualify projects for federal tax credits. This highlights the tremendous growth that has made Texas the clear national leader in wind energy.

Other Top Wind Capacity States

After Texas, Iowa, and California, the states with the next highest wind energy capacity are Oklahoma and Illinois. Oklahoma has 5,184 MW of installed wind capacity, making it the fourth highest wind energy producing state. Illinois comes in fifth with 3,842 MW of wind capacity.

Other states rounding out the top ten for wind capacity include Kansas (6,113 MW), New York (1,823 MW), Colorado (1,671 MW), Washington (1,127 MW), and Oregon (1,097 MW). Though they may have less total capacity than leaders like Texas and Iowa, these states still make vital contributions to the growth of renewable wind energy nationwide.

Wind Capacity by Region

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s WindExchange, the Midwest region had the greatest installed wind capacity as of 2020, with over 52,000 MW. This region includes states like Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. Many of these states have ideal conditions for wind power, including strong wind resources and available land.

The Southwest region, which includes states like Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Colorado, ranked second for installed wind capacity at over 44,000 MW. Texas alone accounted for about a third of the nation’s total wind capacity. The state’s capacity grew rapidly due to supportive policies, economic factors, and abundant wind resources.

what state has the largest wind capacity?

Other top regions for wind capacity include the South/Southeast, the West/Mountain, and the Northeast. While some of these regions do not boast the strongest wind resources, political and economic factors have enabled growth in states like California, New York, and others. The distribution of wind capacity across different regions of the U.S. highlights wind power’s rise as an increasingly significant electricity source nationwide.

Source: U.S. Installed and Potential Wind Power Capacity and Generation

Factors Driving Wind Capacity

There are several key factors that drive wind capacity in different states across the U.S. Some of the most important factors include:

State Renewable Portfolio Standards: Many states have enacted renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that require utilities to source a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar. States with ambitious RPS targets have seen significant growth in wind capacity as utilities work to meet these mandates. For example, Iowa has an RPS target of 105 MW of renewables by 2030 which has driven major wind investments in the state [1].

Favorable Geography: The geography and climate of a region significantly impacts its potential for wind energy. Wind capacity is highest in states with consistent strong wind resources like the Great Plains, Midwest, and coastal regions. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa have emerged as wind leaders in part due to their geographic advantages [2].

Transmission Infrastructure: Building out transmission lines that can carry wind-generated electricity to population centers is key for growth. States that have invested in transmission like Texas have seen substantial increases in wind capacity [3].

Government Incentives: Tax incentives like the federal Production Tax Credit have accelerated wind development by helping offset capital costs. State and local incentives can also attract new wind projects and manufacturing facilities [4].

Technological Advances: Improvements in turbine technology, including larger rotors and taller towers, have significantly increased wind capacity factors over time. This makes projects more cost-effective [5].

[1] https://css.umich.edu/publications/factsheets/energy/wind-energy-factsheet
[2] https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/top-4-trends-us-wind-market
[3] https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/acce4f
[4] https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/acce4f

[5] https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/top-4-trends-us-wind-market

Future Outlook

The future growth and changes in wind capacity rankings look very promising according to projections from the Department of Energy. Their map of projected wind industry growth shows wind capacity in the United States quadrupling from around 100 GW in 2020 to over 400 GW by 2050. Much of this growth will come from offshore wind, which is still in early stages but expected to expand greatly in coming decades.

In terms of state capacity rankings, Texas is expected to maintain 1st position through 2050 and beyond, potentially reaching over 130 GW. Other top states like Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, and California are projected to see large gains as well, with dozens of gigawatts added to each state’s wind portfolio. Though percentage increases may be higher in states starting from a smaller base, the overall leaderboard is not expected to shift dramatically based on current growth trajectories and capacity potentials. The Midwest, Plains states, West Coast, and Northeast will continue to lead in wind capacity thanks to their wind resources and supportive policies.

Challenges & Opportunities

While wind power has seen tremendous growth in recent years, there are still challenges to further expansion. One major obstacle is the variability and intermittency of wind resources. Wind speeds fluctuate throughout the day and seasonally, which can make it difficult to integrate large amounts of wind power into the electric grid. Upgrading transmission lines to carry power from windy rural areas to population centers is also a challenge.

On the opportunity side, continued technological advances are helping drive down the cost of wind power. Larger turbines, taller towers, and improvements in blade design allow modern wind farms to capture more energy at lower wind speeds. There is also great potential to install wind power offshore where winds are stronger and more consistent.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wind power could provide over 10% of the nation’s electricity by 2020, 20% by 2030, and 35% by 2050. Realizing these goals will require overcoming challenges through continued policy support, grid modernization, energy storage advances, and sustained technology innovation [1].


In summary, wind energy capacity is a crucial metric for understanding the growth of renewable energy in the United States. As we’ve explored, Texas currently leads the country by a wide margin in installed wind capacity. The state has seen massive growth over the last two decades thanks to favorable policies, ample wind resources, and a robust energy market. Other leaders include California, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Kansas – all states with abundant wind and policies that have enabled the wind industry to flourish.

While the central plains and western states dominate currently, offshore wind development along the coasts shows promise for the future. Wind capacity is expected to continue growing rapidly as costs keep falling and states implement renewable energy standards. However, challenges remain around transmission, siting, and policy support. Overall, monitoring wind energy capacity by state provides valuable insights into this quickly evolving industry and the shifting energy landscape across America.

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