The 8 Biggest Wind Farms in the World

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Trying to build a better planet. Read more from this special report.

When the modern wind industry sparked to life in California during the 1980s, the maximum output of an average wind turbine was measured in the tens of kilowatts. Even stringing together hundreds of these machines only allowed a few megawatts of power to be produced, a far cry from the gigawatt-scale of a large nuclear facility.

But the past thirty years have seen remarkable development in wind technology. Individual turbines have gotten much (much!) larger, so that some individual units are rated at seven megawatts. That's hundreds of times better output than the initial small units. Some turbines are taller than the Statue of Liberty now. And operational experience now keeps wind machines online for a much greater percentage of the time, too.

Add up those changes and you can see a remarkable change in the scale of wind farms, which are measured in the hundreds of megawatts now, comparable to many fossil fuel facilities. Above, you can take a quick tour through the eight largest wind farms in the country.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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