Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Offshore Wind Energy

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Offshore Wind Turbines

Offshore wind has the potential to deliver large amounts of clean, renewable energy to fulfill the electrical needs of cities along U.S. coastlines.

10. Offshore Wind Resources Are Abundant: The Energy Department estimates offshore wind could produce more than the combined generating capacity of all U.S. electric power plants if all of the resources in state and federal waters were developed.

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 reach the height of the Space Needle, or almost twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty—about 550 feet.

8. Offshore Wind Components Are Easier to Transport: Offshore wind turbine components are transported by ships and barges, reducing logistical challenges that land-based wind components sometimes encounter, such as narrow roadways or tunnels. These components enable offshore wind developers to build larger turbines capable of producing more electricity.

7. The U.S. Offshore Wind Industry is Ready for Takeoff: The Energy Department works to accelerate deployment of offshore wind technologies through a series of projects that reduce market barriers such as environmental impacts, logistical challenges, siting and permitting, and infrastructure development. The Energy Department also works with both the public and private sector to support research and technology innovations that advance the nation’s emerging offshore wind industry. Finally, the Energy Department is also working to demonstrate advanced technologies.

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.

5. The Majority of U.S. Offshore Wind Resources Are in Deep Waters: The bulk of the nation’s offshore wind resources, about 60 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.

4. Offshore Wind Turbines Can Float: Several companies are developing innovative floating offshore wind platforms for use in deep waters. Three kinds of floating platforms are spar-buoy, tension leg platform, and semi-submersible.

3. Offshore Wind is Right on Time: Offshore winds are typically stronger during the day, allowing for a more stable and efficient production of energy when consumer demand is at its peak. Most land-based wind resources are stronger at night, when electricity demands are lower.

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. Wind turbines off coastlines use shorter transmission lines to connect to the power grid than many common sources of electricity.

1. Offshore Wind is Here in America: In December 2016, Deepwater Wind completed the commissioning of the Block Island Wind Farm, marking a milestone as the nation’s first commercial offshore wind project. The 30-megawatt (MW) project comprises five 6-MW GE wind turbines installed in state waters off the coast of Block Island. The project included laying a power cable connecting the grid on Block Island, which only uses a small fraction of the power generated, to the mainland grid. As of 2017, there are over 20 additional offshore wind projects in various stages of development throughout the United States.

(Credit: The “Top Things You Didn’t Know About…” series is brought to you by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.)

(Written by Liz Hartman, Communications Lead for DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office.)