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Offshore ups the ante

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has recently completed a mammoth study that confirms what we all suspected – offshore could be a huge resource for the US. 4,150 gigawatts of potential wind turbine nameplate capacity (maximum turbine capacity) from offshore wind resources are available – four times the nation’s total electric generating capacity from all sources (currently 1,010 gigawatts). PES is proud to present an exclusive extract from this wide-ranging report, which promises to change the way we view offshore forever. Plus, we take a look at two further essential wind energy projects recently completed by the NREL.

Offshore wind resource
In May 2008, the US Department of Energy (DOE) released a report detailing a deployment scenario by which the United States could achieve 20% of its electric energy supply from wind energy (US Department of Energy 2008). Under this scenario, offshore wind was an essential contributor, providing 54 gigawatts of installed electric capacity to the grid. And when President Obama took office in January 2009, his message clearly reinforced this challenge in a broader context of energy independence, environmental stewardship, and a strengthened economy based on clean renewable energy sources.

To achieve the deployment levels described in the 20% wind report, many technical and economic challenges must be faced. Many coastal areas in the United States have large electricity demand but have limited access to a high-quality land-based wind resource, and these areas are typically limited in their access to interstate grid transmission.

Offshore wind resources have the potential to be a significant domestic renewable energy source for coastal electricity loads. The development of a reference and validated offshore wind resource database is one of the first steps necessary to understand the magnitude of the resource and to plan the distribution and development of future offshore wind power facilities.

DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are working to assess the full potential of the nation’s indigenous wind energy resources by creating a validated, national database that defines the significant characteristics used to quantify resource availability and its distribution.

These elements include level of resource (annual average wind speed), water depth, distance from shore, and state administrative areas. The database will be periodically revised to reflect better wind resource estimates and to include updated information from other datasets.


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