The U.S. federal government has set a goal of 100% clean electricity in 2035 and a net-zero carbon economy in 2050. To achieve these ambitious targets, all forms of renewable power will be important—including distributed wind.
Distributed wind energy refers to wind technologies deployed as distributed energy resources. These technologies are place-based solutions that support individuals, communities, and businesses transitioning to carbon-free electricity.
Distributed wind can be placed in behind-the-meter applications, where the system directly offsets a specific end user's consumption of retail electricity supply, or in front-of-the-meter applications where the system is interconnected to the distribution network and provides community-scale energy supply while bolstering the robustness, reliability, and resiliency of the local distribution network. Distributed wind installations can range from a less-than-1-kilowatt off-grid wind turbine that powers telecommunications equipment to a 10-megawatt community-scale energy facility.
From 2003 through 2020, over 87,000 wind turbines were deployed in distributed applications across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam, totaling 1,055 megawatts in cumulative capacity. Iowa, Minnesota, Massachusetts, California, and Texas lead the country with the most distributed wind capacity currently installed. As more communities come to understand the role that distributed energy resources could play in their own energy transitions and seek their environmental, economic, and social benefits, distributed wind could play a unique role in the future U.S. grid.