The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced the release of a report that evaluates the electricity generating potential of offshore wind resources in the United States. According to the report, 4,150 gigawatts of potential wind turbine capacity is possible from offshore wind resources. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2008 the nation’s total electric generating capacity from all sources was 1,010 gigawatts.
Based on high-resolution maps that predict annual average wind speeds, the potential electric generating capacity was calculated from the total area within 50 nautical miles of shore, in areas where average annual wind speeds are at least 16 miles per hour at a height of 295 feet. Detailed resource maps and tables for 26 states with coastal areas on the ocean or Great Lakes break down the wind energy potential by wind speed, water depth, and distance from shore.
The report estimate does not factor in actual planned offshore wind development, and also does not consider that some offshore areas may be excluded from energy development on the basis of environmental, human use, or technical considerations. However, 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.