for National Geographic News
Globally, wind-power capacity rose 27 percent in 2007 to 94,100 megawatts, according to the report from the Washington D.C.-based Worldwatch Institute.
The U.S. led the charge with a record-breaking 5,244-megawatt increase for a total of 16,818 megawatts—enough to power 4.5 million U.S. homes.
And the potential in the U.S. is far greater, according to Janet Sawin, director of the Worldwatch Institute's energy and climate change program and author of the new report.
"Wind resources in just three U.S. states could, theoretically, meet all of our nation's electricity needs," she said in an email.
Technologically and economically, researchers believe wind could account for 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030.
Wind power is not without its critics.
Earlier this month, Governor Martin O'Malley of Maryland banned commercial wind turbines from state-owned land out of concern they would mar the landscape.
A proposed large-scale wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts' Cape Cod has been hobbled in controversy for years. And some environmental groups raise concerns that wind farms pose a risk to birds and bats.
(Read related story: "Plan for World's Largest Wind Farm Generates Controversy" [October 31, 2005].)
Despite the opposition, however, the U.S. is on track to have more wind turbines in the ground than anywhere else in the world.
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