In this far-ranging and prescient report, Large-Scale Offshore Wind Power in the United States: Assessment of opportunities and Barriers, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examines the state of play for the wind industry in the US as well as examining the vital steps the continent needs to take in order to ease the pressure on fossil fuel and presage a more sustainable, wind-led future.
Offshore wind power is poised to deliver an essential contribution to a clean, robust, and diversified US energy portfolio. Capturing and using this large and inexhaustible resource has the potential to mitigate climate change, improve the environment, increase energy security, and stimulate the US economy.
The United States is now deliberating an energy policy that will have a powerful impact on the nation’s energy and economic health for decades to come. This report provides a broad understanding of today’s wind industry and the offshore resource, as well as the associated technological challenges, economics, permitting procedures and potential risks and benefits. An appreciation for all sides of these issues will help to build an informed national dialog and shape effective national policies.
Opportunities in offshore wind power
In common with other clean, renewable, domestic sources of energy, offshore wind power can help to build a diversified and geographically-distributed US energy mix, offering security against many energy supply emergencies -whether natural or man-made. Wind power also emits no carbon dioxide (CO2) or other harmful emissions that contribute to climate change, ground-level pollution, or public health issues.
The United States’ offshore wind energy resources can significantly increase the wind industry’s contribution to the nation’s clean energy portfolio. The United States is fortunate to possess a large and accessible offshore wind energy resource. Wind speeds tend to increase significantly with distance from land, so offshore wind resources can generate more electricity than wind resources at adjacent land-based sites. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that US offshore winds have a gross potential generating capacity four times greater than the nation’s present electric capacity. While this estimate does not consider siting constraints and stakeholder inputs, it clearly indicates that the US offshore wind capacity is