A previous report from 2008 had estimated the total U.S. wind capacity at 1,010 gigawatts. NREL based their estimate on high-resolution maps that predict annual average wind speeds and demonstrate the energy potential of offshore wind resources.
The study examined offshore areas within 50 nautical miles off the U.S. coast where average annual wind speeds are approximately 16 miles per hour at a height of 295 feet. However, the study does not take into account that some offshore areas may be off-limits to energy development for environmental or technological reasons.
The report developed through various stages as new regional meso-scale assessments became available, new validation information was obtained, and better modeling capabilities were implemented. NREL does expect to update the wind power capacity information in future reports as new data becomes available.
In order to create the report, NREL developed a database using Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques that includes offshore wind resource characteristics such as wind speed, water depth, and distance from shore. The database allowed NREL researchers to estimate wind resources under several different scenarios.
In the future, the database may be expanded to include other important characteristics such as wave power density, ocean currents, and other factors that influence the design of offshore wind turbines.
Learn more about Wind Power on eBoom's Wind Energy Learning Page.
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