NREL Report Measures Offshore Wind Potential

September 20, 2010

Some sustainable resources are simply ripe for the harvest. According to Wind Energy News, a September 10 report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) offshore wind resources have a total potential of 4,150 GW.

Translated, this amount of offshore wind could provide roughly three times the current total U.S. annual electricity demand.

This information can be found in NREL’s Assessment of Offshore Wind Energy Resources for the United States. In its press release, NREL said the 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 m/s (approximately 16 mph) at a height of 90 meters (295 feet). For purposes of this study, it was assumed that five megawatts of wind turbines could be placed in every square kilometer of water that met these wind characteristics.”

The report includes detailed resource maps and tables for 26 coastal states (ocean and Great Lakes) . It analyzes offshore wind resources and breaks down the wind energy potential, Using factors of wind speed, water depth, and distance from shore.

For interested sustainability developers, the estimate does not describe actual planned offshore wind development. The NREL report also does not consider that some offshore areas may be excluded from energy development for reasons of environmental, human use, or technical considerations.

Even so, there seems to be plenty of good reasons for attracting entrepreneurial developers or municipalities with access to long-term funding mechanisms.


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Glenn Meyers

Writer, documentary producer, and director. Meyers is a contributor to CleanTechnica, and founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.
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