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Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. consumers and businesses installed 175 megawatts of wind turbines last year to generate their own electricity and reduce their dependence on utilities, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

That was a 62 percent increase over 2011, led by farmers and schools from California to Wisconsin, the Energy Department said today in a report on the distributed wind industry. Total investment was more than $410 million.

The surge in turbine installation by power consumers mirrored the growth in utility-scale wind farms, which almost doubled last year to 13,000 megawatts making wind the largest new source of U.S. electricity. The agency defines distributed wind generation as turbines that are connected either directly to customers or to local power grids, compared to wholesale power that utilities deliver through transmission lines.

Most of the turbines installed at customer sites were 100 kilowatts or less and mounted on towers about 30 meters (98 feet) high, according to the report.

The U.S. has more than 60 gigawatts of wind energy capacity in operation, mostly in Texas, California and Iowa. That’s enough to supply about 14.7 million homes.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Martin in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at

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