US offshore wind energy potential amounts to 4 million MW

It was calculated by the highly esteemed NREL, which considered offshore areas 500 miles from the coast, with 7-metre per second winds at a height of 90 metres, assuming 5 MW installed per square km of sea.

The wind power capacity that could be installed off the US coast amounts to over 4 million MW. The latter is around four times the entire capacity that is currently online in this country (1 million MW), considering every source and technology.

The estimate was publicized by the highly esteemed National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL, the main energy research centre of the Department of Energy) through the report titled Assessment of Offshore Wind Energy Resources for USA, which provides detailed maps of the wind resources of the 26 coastal US states, also including those that border the Great Lakes.

NREL’s estimate considers the wind potential of all offshore areas within 50 miles from the coast (except for the Great Lakes, which were considered entirely), where wind reaches a speed of 7 metres per second at a height of 90 metres over the sea.

Therefore, wind turbines can be installed in an offshore area of 830,064 square kilometres having these characteristics. In order to calculate the potential, the study assumed wind turbines for a capacity of 5 MW for each square kilometre of sea.

The state with the highest potential is Hawaii (637 thousand MW), followed by California (587 thousand MW) and Michigan (483 thousand MW).

Although the NREL report did not assess how this potential could be actually untapped by wind farm, it noted that, due to environmental, economic or technical reasons, or for issues regarding social acceptance, it will not be totally developed.