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US Energy: Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Offshore Wind Energy

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10. Offshore Wind Resources Are Abundant: Offshore wind has the potential to deliver large amounts of clean, renewable energy to fulfill the electrical needs of cities along U.S. coastlines. Under conditions that foster offshore wind utilization, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the technical resource potential for U.S. offshore wind is more than 4,200 gigawatts of capacity, or 13,500 terawatt-hours per year of generation.

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 one-and-a-half-times the height of the Washington Monument, with blades the length of a football field.

8. Offshore Wind Components Are Getting Larger: Offshore wind turbine components are transported by ships and barges, reducing some of the logistical challenges that land-based wind components encounter, such as narrow roadways or tunnels. These components enable offshore wind developers to build larger turbines capable of producing more electricity; however, working at sea presents its own challenges.

7. The U.S. Offshore Wind Industry is Ready for Takeoff: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) works collaboratively with industry and academia to address research challenges that are unique to U.S. offshore wind (like hurricanes), and to understand and address market barriers such as environmental impacts, logistical challenges, siting and permitting, and infrastructure development. Finally, DOE 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 68 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: A number of companies are developing innovative floating offshore wind platforms for use in deep waters. Four kinds of floating platforms are spar-buoy, tension leg platform, semi-submersible, and barge. About 80% of projects plan to use semi-submersible platforms.

3. Offshore Wind is Right on Time: In many areas where offshore wind projects are planned, offshore wind speeds are highest during the afternoon and evening, 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; for example, in the Northeastern United States where some of the nation’s first offshore wind projects are planned. 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 30-MW Block Island Wind Farm, marking a milestone as the nation’s first commercial offshore wind project. In 2020, the 12-MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot became the second operational U.S. offshore wind project. Additionally, there are about 40 offshore wind projects in various stages of development across the United States.

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