What kind of potential does offshore wind energy hold for our country’s future? Apparently a very good one, according to data from a new report out today by U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The findings of this report [PDF], according to the NREL, suggest there is 4,150 gigawatts of potential wind turbine nameplate capacity (maximum turbine capacity) from offshore wind resources around the United States. By comparison, in 2008 the nation’s total electric generating capacity from all sources was 1,010 gigawatts. The NREL said that 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 megawatts of wind turbines could be placed in every square kilometer of water that met these wind characteristics.”
The NREL is quick to note in its findings that this number represents potential power totals, not actual planned offshore wind development. It also does not take into account that some offshore areas may be excluded from energy development on the basis of environmental, human use, or technical considerations. 26 coastal states’ (ocean and Great Lakes) offshore areas look to have been considered in this study.