NREL Releases Estimate Of National Offshore Wind Potential

The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released a new report that assesses the electricity generating potential of offshore wind resources in the U.S.

According to ‘Assessment of Offshore Wind Energy Resources for the United States,’ 4,150 GW of potential wind turbine nameplate capacity from offshore wind resources are available. The estimate does not describe actual planned offshore wind development, and the report does not consider that some offshore areas may be excluded from energy development on the basis of environmental, human use or technical considerations. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2008 the nation's total electric generating capacity from all sources was 1,010 GW.

‘Offshore wind energy development promises to be a significant domestic renewable energy source, especially for coastal energy loads with limited access to interstate grid transmission,’ according to the report.

The report summarizes the offshore wind resource potential, based on map estimates, for the contiguous U.S. and Hawaii as of May 2009. It is expected that further updates to the current assessment will be made in future reports.

The report's estimate is based on the latest high-resolution maps predicting annual average wind speeds, and shows the gross energy potential of offshore wind resources. The potential electric generating capacity was calculated from the total offshore area within 50 nautical miles of shore, in areas where average annual wind speeds are at least 7 meters per second (approximately 16 miles per hour) at a height of 90 meters (295 feet).

For purposes of this study, it was assumed that 5 MW of wind turbines could be placed in every square-kilometer of water that met these wind characteristics. Detailed resource maps and tables for 26 coastal states' (ocean and Great Lakes) offshore wind resources break down the wind energy potential by wind speed, water depth and distance from shore.

To read the full report, visit

SOURCE: National Renewable Energy Laboratory


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