Montana’s wind could make as much the electricity as nineteen states use
Montana’s wind energy potential is about 1020 billion kilowatt-hours per year[[The Energy Foundation. “Renewable Energy Atlas of the West, 2006.”]] — an estimate that factors in how often and hard the wind blows at the state’s best sites for wind turbines, based on topography and other factors as well as wind. And 1020 billion kilowatt-hours is about the same as the electricity consumed in a year by the 19 states shown in this graphic, based on statistics for 2006 from the US Energy Information Administration.[[Energy Information Administration. “Electric Power Annual Data Tables, 2007.”]]
This comparison is meant to suggest the size of the potential resource. It does not mean that Montana’s wind could fully meet the electricity needs of the states shown, because the wind does not blow steadily around the clock to match demand. If you really expected to power 19 western states from Montana’s wind, you would have to store energy for times when the wind is not blowing. You would also have to allow for the fact that long-distance power lines in the US have energy losses of about 7%.[[Energy Information Administration. “Annual Energy Review, 2008.”]]
Nevertheless, producing electricity from wind instead of fossil fuels like coal or natural gas would contribute to limiting CO2 emissions. It is completely renewable, and does not produce any exhaust gases of any kind. And it is clear that Montana has a lot of wind energy potential.