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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