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Montana’s Wind Energy Potential

The estimate here for Montana's wind energy potential (1020 billion kilowatt-hours per year of electricity) was drawn from the Renewable Energy Atlas of the West: A Guide to the Region's Resource Potential, which takes into account how often and how fast the wind blows at Montana locations deemed to be suitable for the placement of wind turbines.

To help give some perspective on this number, we chose to compare it with electricity consumption levels in a bloc of nineteen states, including Montana. We selected these states based on their proximity to Montana and total retail sales of electricity for 2006 (see table below, with data from the US Energy Information Administration's (EIA's) Electric Power Annual, State Historical Tables for 2006). In other words, this bloc was created by adding states up to the point where the total sales for 2006 (990 billion kilowatt-hours) were approximately equivalent to the estimate for Montana's wind power potential.

This analysis is merely illustrative. It does not account for losses that would be incurred from electricity transmission over power lines, which average about 7 percent in the US (EIA, Annual Energy Review 2007, Figure 8.1), or from any energy storage that might be required to accommodate differences in the timing of electricity demand and when the wind blows.

Table

Total retail sales of electricity by state for 2006 (data are from the US Energy Information Administration's Electric Power Annual, State Historical Tables for 2006). Sales are reported here in billions of kilowatt-hours (kWh).

STATES

2006 kWh Sales (billions)

Arizona

47

California

263

Colorado

50

Idaho

23

Illinois

142

Iowa

43

Kansas

40

Minnesota

67

Montana

14

Nebraska

27

Nevada

35

New Mexico

21

Oregon

48

Utah

26

Washington

85

Wisconsin

70

Wyoming

15

N. Dakota

11

S. Dakota

10

Total

990

See the companion still animation, Montana's Wind Energy Potential and the related video Montana: Trout and Drought.