Wind power is a growing source of energy, providing six percent of U.S. electricity generation in 2016. That figure pales in comparison to natural gas (34 percent of energy production) and coal (30 percent), but among renewable sources, only hydropower plants produce more electricity than wind. America’s energy giants have made big wind-power investments in recent years, building massive wind farms in the Western U.S. As a result, the U.S. is the world leader in wind energy, and the American Wind Energy Association estimates wind will supply 20 percent of the country’s energy by 2030. Here are the largest wind farms in the U.S. in terms of megawatts capacity.
5. Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center
When this site near Abilene in west-central Texas came online at full capacity near the end of 2006, it was the most productive wind farm in the world. That it’s now No. 5 in the U.S. shows how quickly wind power is emerging. Horse Hollow produces 736 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 220,000 homes. NextEra Energy Resources, which owns the facility, is the largest wind-power generator in North America.
4. Roscoe Wind Project
This 100,000-acre site in West Texas, which covers parts of four counties, cranks out 781.5 MW. Unlike other major wind projects launched by Fortune 200 energy corporations or equity investors, a Texas farmer helped organize the Roscoe project; several hundred local ranchers and farmers share in royalties from the revenue. The wind farm’s unusual roots were featured in the 2010 documentary Carbon Nation. The farm is operated by E.ON Climate & Renewables, one of the world’s leading wind-power companies.
3. Shepherds Flat Wind Farm
Completed in 2012, Shepherds Flat in northeastern Oregon has a capacity of 845 MW. Developer Caithness Energy faced a couple of big hurdles in getting the project built. Many conservatives and liberals alike balked that federal, state and local subsidies provided two-thirds of the $1.9 billion cost. They maintain the wind farm would have proceeded without any subsidies. On a bizarre note, the FAA and Defense Department initially halted the project for fears the 338 turbines could interfere with a U.S. Air Force radar installation in nearby Fossil, Ore.
2. Los Vientos Wind Farm
If you’ve ever visited the Great Plains, you know there’s plenty of wind to be captured. So it’s no surprise that three of the top five wind farms in the U.S. are located in Texas. Duke Energy’s Los Vientos Wind Farm in Willacy and Starr counties boasts 426 turbines and a capacity of 900 MW.
1. Alta Wind Energy Center
This massive wind farm in Southern California’s Tehachapi Mountains features 600 turbines with a combined capacity of 1,547 MW — two-thirds more capacity than the next biggest wind farm in the U.S. Owned by Terra-Gen Power, it’s the second-biggest onshore wind farm in the world. Also known as the Mojave Wind Farm, construction began on the privately funded site in 2010. It’s not to be confused with the nearby Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm, one of the country’s first massive wind farms that dates to the early 1980s and is currently the sixth largest wind site in the country. Overall, the Tehachapi Pass turbines produce more wind power than any other region in the U.S.