Sobering Fact: US Offshore Wind Potential is 4x Our Total Power Capacity

[tweetmeme source=”intercongreen”]A new report has been issued buy Wind Powering America, a Department of Energy initiative, that attempts to calculate the total potential energy to be captured off our nation’s coastlines via offshore wind farms. While erecting turbines out away from land has gathered significant support in parts of Europe, America has yet to construct a utility scale offshore wind farm despite a number of proposals remaining in the pipeline such as Cape Wind in Massachusetts. According to the report there is 4,150 GW of generating capacity potential for offshore wind in U.S. waters. If we grouped together all of the generating capacity that exists in the United States at the end of 2009 (including renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels) it would total 1,025 GW–one quarter of the capacity potential that sits off our coastlines.

It is true that when it comes to renewable power production, capacity does not equal production. Given that energy from the sun and wind are intermittent in nature, the amount of power produced by these technologies currently stands as a fraction of total capacity–in the cases of on shore wind this can be 20-25%. Offshore wind helps to combat that reality as wind over the ocean tends to be stronger and more consistent than wind over land. Even if new farms only produced one fifth of their advertised capacity, offshore wind could still displace the coal portion of our nation’s power (when coupled with power storage) to provide consistent, clean, baseload energy. For the rest of us that means no more mining, no more transporting and the removal of one of the largest source of emissions in the country.

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