Offshore Wind Could Power U.S. East Coast

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted September 26, 2012

On September 14, Stanford University released a research report that indicates offshore winds from the U.S. Atlantic coast could provide enough renewable power for at least a third of the entire domestic electrical requirement. In other words, the entire East Coast from Maine to Florida could run just on the wind power generated from offshore wind facilities in that region.

The research team used the latest offshore wind power simulations to gauge the effect of 144,000 5-megawatt wind turbines at various depths and offshore distances along the coastline from Florida to Maine. The installations were concentrated in the normally hurricane-free region between Maine and Virginia.

In sum, offshore winds in that area could produce between 965-1,372 terawatt-hours of electricity per year. As a bonus, the findings indicated that East Coast offshore winds peak around the middle of the day, when power demand peaks as well.

From Triple Pundit:

“We knew there was a lot of wind out there, but this is the first actual quantification of the total resource and the time of day that the resource peaks,” commented Stanford University professor of civil and environmental engineeering Mark Z. Jacobson, who directed the research project. “This provides practical information to wind farm developers about the best areas to place turbines.”

The study is available here.

Aside from drastically cutting emissions and the domestic carbon footprint, a large-scale installation of offshore wind facilities in the East Coast would create a significant number of green jobs while boosting the domestic economy, particularly in the emerging renewables sector.

Unfortunately, not a single offshore wind project is actually in the water yet due to stiff opposition and seemingly endless grid connection and technical problems. Nevertheless, European nations are going ahead full-steam with offshore wind development.

What’s really galling is that we have an offshore wind generation potential exceeding 1,300 gigawatts. Of that, even 52 GW could power almost 14 million average households with completely clean energy, create roughly 300,000 new jobs, and generate around $200 billion in overall economic activity in some of the nation’s most vital cities.

So far, the first feeble step is embodied in the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, proposals for which were filed back in 2001. Back in August, it received FAA approval and earlier, in 2010, it received approval from the Obama administration.

Energy Management Inc., a private Massachusetts energy company, is developing the facility with turbines from the German company Siemens (NYSE: SI). On completion, the facility should create 150 full-time jobs, and its success could facilitate other farms of this kind.

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