Though wind power currently accounts for less than 1 percent of the nation's electricity, the 2,400 megawatts of power produced by domestic wind-energy parks in 2005 was enough to power 650,000 American homes for a full year. President Bush predicts that wind energy could someday provide as much as 20 percent of U.S. electricity, much like Germany, which generates 10 to 25 percent of its power from wind.
Opponents of wind power say the large turbines -- some up to 40 meters long -- will mar scenic landscapes along beach areas, which make ideal spots for wind energy fields. Critics also cite bird safety and difficulty with integration into existing utility grids. However, John Dunlop, senior outreach representative with the American Wind Energy Association, says wind power can be easily integrated into the grid, "and it doesn't need backup power or changes to the utility system."
Wind power advocates say more remote locations could also be utilized to collect power without disrupting the skyline or impeding farmers using wind turbine land, as cattle can graze around the bases of the tall turbine poles, and crops can also grow around the poles. However, since people don't tend to live in such remote areas, transporting the energy to population-dense areas could be problematic.
While Steve Fetter, dean of the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy, says wind power likely couldn't provide more than 5 or 10 percent of the nation's power, Dunlop says the United States' potential production could be closer to that of Germany: "Germany leads the entire world in installed wind-energy capacity, but Minnesota alone has five times the wind-energy resources as Germany. We have the capacity."