Data released by the US Department of Energy (DOE) has left wind power advocates feeling billowy.

On Feb. 19, 2010, the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) released new wind resource maps and wind-potential estimates for the contiguous United States and each of the 50 states. The data was developed through a collaborative project between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and AWS Truewind LLC, of Albany, N.Y. The resource maps show the predicted average annual wind speeds at a height of 80 meters (m). Areas with annual average wind speeds around 6.5 meters-per-second and greater at 80-m height are generally considered to have suitable wind resources for wind development.

The data could raise some eyebrows. For one, it shows total U.S. potential installed wind-power capacity at 10.5 million megawatts (MW) and the total potential annual generation of that capacity, if built-out, at 37 million gigawatts (GW).

If nothing else, this should give planners, policy-makers and wind-power developers something to shoot for. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the gap between actual and potential is vast. In real numbers, the current total installed capacity for wind power in the United States now stands at only 35 GW.

“This new analysis confirms that America is blessed with vast wind resources,” the AWEA boasted in a prepared statement after the data was released.

State wind power advocates were also buoyed. In particular, Kansas vaulted to the No. 2 spot on the list of states with the greatest potential, second only to Texas. The top 10 list clearly favors the Great Plains states. Following Kansas are Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

The DOE reports that this is the first comprehensive update of the wind-energy potential by state since 1993.