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America's mighty offshore wind ... potential

A new government study offers some eye-popping estimates for electricity production -- if "public concerns" are met


Andrew Leonard
October 8, 2010 10:41PM (UTC)

Todd Woody tweets our attention to a new U.S. government study on the potential of offshore windpower.

The topline takeaway is dramatic. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates the total U.S. "gross wind resource" at "at more than 4,000 GW, or roughly four times the generating capacity currently carried on the U.S. electric grid."

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That's a lot of gigawatts!

However.

This estimate assumes that one 5-MW wind turbine could be placed on every square kilometer of water with an annual average wind speed above 7.0 meters per second (m/s)... [and] this wind mapping effort does not currently account for a range of siting restrictions and public concerns. These gross resource values will likely shrink by 60 percent or more after all environmental and socioeconomic constraints have been taken into account.

So maybe only about 1600 GW, provided all the permits and technical details can be worked out.

But that's still a lot of gigawatts. The report also concludes that "extrapolating from European studies, NREL estimates that offshore wind will create more than 20 direct jobs for every megawatt produced in the United States."

Europe already has about 2300 MW of offshore wind generating capacity. What, again, are we waiting for?


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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