Offshore Wind Resource Assessment
An NREL assessment provides an update on fixed-bottom and floating offshore wind energy potential and spatial characteristics in the contiguous United States.
Fixed-bottom and floating offshore wind energy technology could provide terawatts of power to the United States’ grid. Combined, they offer enough energy to cover three times the U.S. annual electricity consumption. Representing regional and national opportunities for offshore wind energy development, this assessment identifies 1.5 terawatts of energy in technical resource potential from fixed-bottom wind farms and 2.8 terawatts from floating offshore wind farms across eight geographic areas in the contiguous United States. By including technology advancements, which enable increasingly economic deployment in moderate-quality sites and deeper waters, this update reflects a notable increase from prior estimates of technical potential.
Unique siting challenges related to marine environmental, jurisdictional, and socioeconomic considerations can also influence the availability and leasing of offshore waters for wind energy development. The NREL-led Offshore Wind Resource Assessment captures and informs these challenges by characterizing the nation’s offshore wind energy potential with spatial layers that estimate the quantity and quality of resource that may be affected. This work supports the responsible deployment of offshore wind energy and includes the separate impacts of existing infrastructure, environmental considerations (e.g., sensitive marine species and habitat), and U.S. Department of Defense operational constraints.
Overall, the project focuses on the evaluation of offshore wind energy technical potential in the contiguous United States and partitions results between fixed-bottom and floating offshore wind energy technologies across eight regions. Wind farm developers determine optimal offshore wind energy substructure (either fixed to the seafloor or floating but anchored to the seafloor) by a variety of factors, such as component costs, installation and maintenance logistics, seafloor geologic (e.g., soil and seismic) conditions, and permitting and may change over time as technology and conditions evolve. In this effort, a 60-meter water depth is considered a reasonable delineator between fixed-bottom and floating offshore wind turbine deployment (see map) for a high-level assessment from prior techno-economic modeling, but this water depth should not be considered a hard technical or economic limit.
The Offshore Wind Resource Assessment is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office.
The objectives of this project include:
- Updating the assumptions used to characterize offshore wind energy technical potential, including wind turbine and wind power plant spatial siting constraints, assumptions on turbine and plant density, assumed seafloor depth constraints, and inclusion of floating offshore wind energy potential in the Great Lakes
- Quantifying the total technical potential for offshore wind energy in the United States as well as the relative share of that technical potential available to fixed-bottom and floating offshore wind turbine substructure technologies.
Offshore Wind Technical Potential, NREL Presentation (2022)