The U.S. has 4,150 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power potential, according to a new assessment released by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
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--but that's still a lot of potential energy.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2008 the nation’s total electric generating capacity from all sources was 1,010 GW.
NREL'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 the study, it was assumed that 5 megawatts (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.
The complete report, "Assessment of Offshore Wind Energy Resources for the United States," is available at the link below.