Report reveals offshore wind power in the U.S. has tremendous potential

» By | Published 13 Oct 2010

Offshore wind power along U.S. coastlines has a gross potential generating capacity four times greater than the nation’s present electric capacity, a new report by a national laboratory has found.

Saying that harnessing “this large and inexhaustible resource” can help mitigate climate change, increase energy security, and stimulate the U.S. economy, the report said that 54 GW of offshore wind power could be built by 2030.

Conducted by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the study — called “Large-Scale Offshore Wind Power In The United States” — found that offshore wind could help the nation meet 20% of its electricity demand in two decades.
The 12-page executive summary of the NREL report noted that building 54 GW of offshore wind energy facilities would generate an estimated $200 billion in new economic activity and create more than 43,000 permanent, well-paid technical jobs in manufacturing, construction, engineering, operations and maintenance.

Finding that high winds exist off the coast of 26 states, the study also said offshore wind farms could effectively compete in coastal regions because they could be built near large urban centres with steadily growing power demand, high electricity rates, and limited space to expand land-based generation and transmission facilities.

In releasing the report Wednesday in Washington, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said offshore wind power’s vast potential holds great promise for the nation to achieve a clean energy future and economy.

“Today’s report will help guide our efforts in the coming years to support the offshore wind industry, create new clean energy jobs, and develop environmentally responsible energy resources,” Chu said.

The NREL report found that harnessing even a fraction of the nation’s potential offshore wind resource, estimated to be more than 4,000 GW, would be highly beneficial.

“Offshore wind power can help to build a diversified and geographically distributed U.S. energy mix, offering security against many energy supply emergencies — whether natural or man-made,” the report said. “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 study added that while there are no offshore wind farms in the U.S. so far,  about 20 projects representing more than 2,000 MW of capacity are in the planning and permitting process. Most of these activities are in the Northeast and Mid- Atlantic regions, the report said, although projects are being considered along the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Coast.

“In the context of the greater energy, environmental, and economic concerns the nation faces, accelerating the deployment of offshore wind could have tremendous benefits to the United States,” the report concluded.

Categories: Climate change