The U.S. installed wind energy capacity has grown significantly over the past decade to about 85 GW. Looking back at the technology advancements of this industry, it is clear that all three major components of the wind energy system (turbine, blades and tower) have increased in size or capacity, which in turn has helped to reduce the cost of wind energy over the years. While bigger turbines and longer blades are being continuously introduced, the increase in tower height, which is a prerequisite for increased turbine and rotor diameter, has only seen incremental technology advancements. The impetus for this incremental change was the base dimension of the 80 m (262 ft) tubular steel tower reaching the transportation limit, significantly increasing the cost of taller tubular towers. The frequent alternatives that the industry has attempted include the hybrid concept with a concrete base and concrete shell towers. Neither technology completely overcomes the transportation and logistical constraints. The transportation limit hindering the increase in tower height clearly shows that a new technology is needed since such a limitation has not prevented other civil infrastructures to continue to reach newer heights (e.g., buildings) and newer lengths (e.g., bridges).

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Wind Energy Potential

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