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Offshore Wind Resource Characterization

NREL scientists and engineers are leading efforts in resource mapping, remote sensor measurement and development, and forecasting that are essential for the development of offshore wind.

Resource Mapping

Map of the United States, showing the wind potential of offshore areas across the country.

US offshore wind speed estimates at 90-m height

For more than 15 years, NREL's meteorologists, engineers, and Geographic Information System experts have led the production of wind resource characterization maps and reports used by policy makers, private industry, and other government organizations to inform and accelerate the development of wind energy in the United States. Offshore wind resource data and mapping has strategic uses. As with terrestrial developments, traditional wind resource maps are required for prospecting, and help with strategic direction at a state and national level. To support this need, NREL completed a map in 2010 of the mean annual wind resource in coastal waters and reported it in the first edition of the Assessment of Offshore Wind Energy Resources for the United States. When offshore installations are being planned, it is essential to have precise information on local conditions, and NREL is working with industry stakeholders to identify critical data needed.

Remote Sensing and Modeling

Photo of the SeaZephIR Prototype at sea.

2009 Natural Power SeaZephIR Prototype. Credit: Natural Power.

NREL is assessing the potential contribution of techniques such as remote sensing and modeling to provide data on design conditions. Research includes comparing the data provided by remote sensing devices and models to data collected by traditional methods, in order to establish their accuracy and increase acceptability to certification and banking institutions. Building on lessons learned from European offshore wind facilities, NREL teams create and refine mesoscale modeling and computational fluid dynamics tools to predict deep-array effects on wind resources in operating facilities.


Resource information remains vital to operations after sites have been built and are producing power. Site owners and operators, utilities, and federal agencies all need to know about short-term and seasonal variations in the wind resource. This can help plan maintenance operations on site or inform market choices. NREL is working with other organizations to support and validate forecasting work from minutes to days ahead.

See more information on wind resource assessment capabilities.