Top 10 Things You Didn't Know About Offshore Wind Energy

October 21, 2022
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Map from WINDExchange

10. Offshore Wind Resources Are Abundant

Offshore wind has the potential to deliver large amounts of clean, renewable energy to fulfill the electrical needs of cities along U.S. coastlines. Under conditions that foster offshore wind utilization, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the technical resource potential for U.S. offshore wind is more than 4,200 gigawatts of capacity, or 13,500 terawatt-hours per year of generation.

Illustration showing the history of turbine height to 2035 goal.
Illustration by Josh Bauer, NREL

9. Offshore Wind Turbines Can Be Extremely Tall

In order to capture the abundant wind resources available offshore, offshore turbines can be scaled up to one-and-a-half-times the height of the Washington Monument, with blades the length of a football field.

Photo of a large wind turbine blade being carried on the bed of a truck.
Photo by Jim Green, NREL 16178

8. Offshore Wind Components Are Getting Larger

Offshore wind turbine components are transported by ships and barges, reducing some of the logistical challenges that land-based wind components encounter, such as narrow roadways or tunnels. These components enable offshore wind developers to build larger turbines capable of producing more electricity; however, working at sea presents its own challenges.

Photo of an offshore wind turbine.
Photo by University of Maine, NREL 27466

7. The U.S. Offshore Wind Industry is Ready for Takeoff

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) works collaboratively with industry and academia to address research challenges that are unique to U.S. offshore wind (like hurricanes), and to understand and address market barriers such as environmental impacts, logistical challenges, siting and permitting, and infrastructure development. Finally, DOE is also working to demonstrate advanced technologies.

Cutaway of the spar cable that channels the electricity from the turbine back to the land.
Illustration by Josh Bauer, NREL 49057

6. Offshore Wind Farms Use Undersea Cables to Transmit Electricity to the Grid

Electricity produced by offshore wind turbines travels back to land through a series of cable systems that are buried in the sea floor. This electricity is channeled through coastal load centers that prioritize where the electricity should go and distributes it into the electrical grid to power our homes, schools, and businesses.

Illustration by Josh Bauer, NREL 49055

5. The Majority of U.S. Offshore Wind Resources Are in Deep Waters

The bulk of the nation’s offshore wind resources, about 68 percent, are in areas where the water is so deep that conventional foundations—large steel piles or lattice structures fixed to the seabed—are not practical. U.S. offshore wind projects are developing a variety of different foundations suited to unique conditions at each site.

Illustration by Josh Bauer, NREL 49054

4. Offshore Wind Turbines Can Float

A number of companies are developing innovative floating offshore wind platforms for use in deep waters. Four kinds of floating platforms are spar-buoy, tension leg platform, semi-submersible, and barge. About 80% of projects plan to use semi-submersible platforms.

3. Offshore Wind is Right on Time

In many areas where offshore wind projects are planned, offshore wind speeds are highest during the afternoon and evening, when consumer demand is at its peak. Most land-based wind resources are stronger at night, when electricity demands are lower.

Map showing the 2010 population distribution in the United States and Puerto Rico.
Graphic by U.S. Census Bureau

2. Offshore Wind Resources are Near Most Americans

Nearly 80 percent of the nation’s electricity demand occurs in the coastal and Great Lakes states—where most Americans live. Offshore wind resources are conveniently located near these coastal populations; for example, in the Northeastern United States where some of the nation’s first offshore wind projects are planned. Wind turbines off coastlines use shorter transmission lines to connect to the power grid than many common sources of electricity.

Photo of several offshore wind turbines in the ocean.
Photo by Gary Norton, NREL 41184

1. Offshore Wind is Here in America

In December 2016, Deepwater Wind completed the commissioning of the 30-MW Block Island Wind Farm, marking a milestone as the nation’s first commercial offshore wind project. In 2020, the 12-MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot became the second operational U.S. offshore wind project. Additionally, there are about 40 offshore wind projects in various stages of development across the United States.

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