Where Is The Best Site For Wind Energy Found?

Where is the best site for wind energy found?

Wind energy is one of the fastest growing and most promising renewable energy sources in the world. It is generated through wind turbines that convert the kinetic energy from wind into electrical power. Site selection is a crucial factor in developing successful wind energy projects. The location of wind turbines plays a major role in determining the potential power generation. Careful consideration of wind patterns, land availability, grid access, permitting, environmental impact, community support, transportation access, and costs during the site selection process helps maximize energy production and return on investment.

Wind Speed

Wind speed is the most important factor in site selection for wind energy projects (Wind Site Selection). Ideal wind speeds for utility-scale wind turbines are around 15-25 mph at hub height. To maximize energy production, sites with consistent, strong wind patterns are preferred. Assessment of the wind resource involves taking wind speed measurements using anemometers installed on met towers. Precise wind data is crucial, as overestimating speeds can lead to energy production shortfalls. According to the DOE’s WINDExchange, a minimum average annual wind speed of 6.5 mph is required for utility-scale wind, with increased speeds of 13+ mph considered superb (WINDExchange). Choosing sites with optimal wind speeds and predictable, sustained wind flow is essential for cost-effective and reliable wind power generation.

Land Availability

Wind farms require large, open areas of land to operate efficiently and maximize energy production. Generally, a utility-scale wind turbine needs about 1-2 acres per megawatt (MW) of generating capacity. So a 2 MW turbine would require 2-4 acres of land space. With spacing between turbines factored in, experts estimate that wind farms need anywhere from 30 to 150 acres per MW of capacity. For example, a 50 MW wind farm would likely need around 2,000-5,000 acres of open land. The amount can vary based on turbine size, layout, terrain and other factors.

One consideration is that the land cannot have major obstacles like forests or buildings that would block the wind. The area needs steady, uninterrupted wind flow. Farmland tends to meet these criteria well, which is why Iowa, Kansas, and parts of the Midwest are popular for wind projects. Landowners can lease property to wind farm developers, creating a new revenue stream from previously unused acres. Overall, wind power tends to be land efficient compared to other energy sources. But siting large wind farms does require substantial, contiguous open land.

According to Landgate, wind farm developers typically look for land parcels of around 2,500-5,000 acres in size to accommodate dozens of utility-scale turbines. The layout is optimized to maximize energy production from the available wind resources (https://www.landgate.com/news/does-my-land-qualify-for-a-wind-farm-lease). With advanced turbines now generating 2-5 MW each, wind farms can efficiently harness wind power with reasonable land requirements.

Access to Grid

Proximity to transmission lines for interconnection is a key factor in determining the optimal site for a wind farm. Being located near existing high-capacity transmission lines minimizes the costs and complexities associated with building new infrastructure to connect to the electric grid (Renewable Energy Cost Analysis: Wind Power). Interconnection costs can be a significant portion of the overall capital expenditures for a wind project. One NREL analysis found that grid connection costs averaged around $191/kW for wind projects built in 2019 (2021 Cost of Wind Energy Review). This represents the costs for equipment like substations as well as permitting and fees to connect to the transmission system operator. Building new transmission lines to connect a remote wind farm to the grid can add substantially to the overall project costs.


Permitting and regulatory requirements can be a significant factor in determining the best site for wind energy. Wind projects generally require permits and approvals at the local, state, and federal levels.

At the local level, wind projects will need to comply with zoning laws and may require conditional use permits or special use permits as well as building permits. Zoning laws regulate land use and can impact the allowable height of turbines or set requirements like minimum setbacks from property lines. Local ordinances may also place limits on noise levels.

At the state level, permits and approvals are often required for stormwater, wetlands, water quality, endangered species, and other environmental impacts. Most states have a lead agency like a public utilities commission that handles the primary permitting process for wind projects. There may also be reviews required by state historical preservation offices, aviation authorities, highway departments, and other agencies.

Federally, wind projects are subject to regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and other agencies. Offshore wind projects require approval from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The federal permitting process for wind can often be lengthy, taking 5-7 years in some cases.

Navigating the various permitting and regulatory requirements across different levels of government is a key consideration in determining the ideal site for a wind energy project.

Environmental Impact

When considering a site for a new wind farm, thorough environmental impact studies are needed to understand the potential effects on wildlife and habitat. The U.S. Department of Energy notes that while wind energy development impacts the environment, these effects can often be mitigated through proper siting, operations, and management practices (source).

Some key environmental concerns include impacts on birds and bats. Wind turbines can pose a collision risk for birds and bats, especially migratory species (source). Careful site selection, turbine design adaptations, and curtailing operations during migration can help minimize risks. There are also potential impacts on marine environments from offshore wind turbines, such as effects on seabed habitat, underwater noise, and collisions for sea mammals (source). Comprehensive environmental impact assessments and monitoring can identify risks early.

While wind energy does have environmental effects, they are vastly less than conventional fossil fuel energy sources. With proper siting and management, wind energy can be harnessed as a cleaner energy alternative.

Community Support

Gaining the support of the local community is crucial for the successful implementation of a wind energy project. According to Lessons Learned Community Engagement for Wind Energy Siting and Permitting, “Wind energy development brings significant benefits to local communities, along with the potential for controversy and what some may consider a significant change in their community.” [1] Therefore, early and transparent engagement with residents is key.

Strategies for gaining community support include sharing information about the potential local economic benefits, providing opportunities for financial ownership, and involving residents in the planning process. Developers should hold community meetings, establish channels for feedback, and ensure people feel heard. They can also offer community benefits like a property tax reduction or community fund. The DOE’s Wind Energy Community Benefits Guide states that “community engagement strategies provide an avenue for addressing resident concerns.” [2] By working closely with local stakeholders, wind projects are much more likely to gain acceptance.

Transportation Access

Transporting large wind turbine components like blades, towers, and nacelles to the site is a major consideration when determining the best locations for wind farms. Many parts are manufactured at special facilities and need to be trucked hundreds of miles to the site. According to the Department of Energy, the logistics of installing today’s larger turbines present significant transportation challenges (1).

The blades can be longer than 200 feet and need to fit under bridges and power lines along the route. Heavy haul trucks and trailers are required to transport these oversized parts. Railways and waterways may also be leveraged where available. Ports are strategic for bringing in components shipped from overseas. Areas near major highways, rail lines, and ports offer a transportation advantage.

Costs for short-haul shipments average $30,000-40,000 per turbine (2). This makes proximity to the supply chain and robust infrastructure vital for affordable wind projects.

(1) https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/infrastructure-and-logistics

(2) https://www.utilitydive.com/spons/wind-turbine-blade-sizes-and-transport-a-guide/623444/


The costs of developing a wind farm can be broken down into capital expenditures (capex) and operating expenditures (opex). Capital costs make up the majority of costs and include expenses like turbines, foundations, electrical equipment, and construction. According to the 2021 Cost of Wind Energy Review by NREL, capital costs account for 64% of the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for land-based wind farms as of 2021 [1]. Operating costs like land leases, operations and maintenance, and insurance make up the remaining 36% of LCOE.

There are significant economies of scale for wind farms, with capital costs decreasing as project size increases. Eachdoubling in turbine nameplate capacity can reduce LCOE by up to 10%, so utility-scale wind farms over 100 MW benefit from lower costs per MW compared to smaller projects [2]. Wind turbine prices have also fallen 69% in the last decade, from $1,770/kW in 2009 to $550/kW in 2020 according to the U.S. Department of Energy [3]. These declines in capital costs have made wind power more cost competitive.


In determining the best site for wind energy, there are several key factors that must be considered. The most important are wind speed and land availability, as sufficient wind resources and space are required for constructing profitable wind farms. Access to existing energy grids is also crucial, to be able to transport the generated electricity to customers.

However, several other aspects come into play as well. The permitting process must be feasible, and projects should minimize negative environmental impacts. Gaining community support is ideal, along with convenient transportation access to the site. Finally, costs are a major consideration, as cheaper sites allow for greater returns on investment.

By weighing all these factors, developers can identify optimal locations for wind farms that maximize energy production while keeping costs down. The best wind energy sites combine abundant wind resources, available land, grid connectivity, permitting viability, eco-friendliness, public approval, transport access, and affordable development costs. When all these conditions are met, wind power can thrive.

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