Dept. of Interior: Offshore Wind Could Meet 100% of US Electricity Demand

  • Published on April 7th, 2009

Atlantic wind farms alone could meet 25% of US electricity needs

According to a new report released by the Interior Department, shallow-water offshore wind farms could supply as much as 20% of the electricity in most coastal states. The report, released last week by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, said that the greatest offshore wind energy potential in the U.S. lies off the Atlantic Coast which holds 1,000 gigawatts of electricity, or one quarter of national demand.


“More than three-fourths of the nation’s electricity demand comes from coastal states and the wind potential off the coasts of the lower 48 states actually exceeds our entire U.S. electricity demand,” Salazar told a summit meeting of 25X’25 America’s Energy Future, a group working to lower America’s carbon emissions.

From Maine to Florida, state and local officials have been drafting plans and regulatory structures for offshore wind farm siting and permitting.

States have regulatory jurisdiction within three miles of their coast, beyond that boundary, the federal government has jurisdiction. And the federal waters between North Carolina and Delaware hold 71 percent of the nation’s shallow-water wind resources, the Interior report says.

In North Carolina, where the shallow waters and high winds in and around the Outer Banks are legendary, state legislators and some coastal counties are already preparing standards for where to allow wind farms. The state’s sounds, inside the Outer Banks, could be likely targets.

“We don’t have a proposal yet, but in all the presentations I’ve seen, the (potential) facilities seem to be in shallow water,” Mike Lopazanski of the N.C. Division of Coastal Management told the Charlotte Observer.

The report also notes large potential in the Pacific—approximately 900 gigawatts along the coast of California, Oregon and Washington—but that deeper waters off the Pacific coast make developing that wind energy resource far more difficult with current available technologies.

There are more than 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind projects proposed in the United States, yet the country is still waiting for its first offshore turbine. Though it has yet to receive final approval from all relevant regulatory bodies, the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts is the closest to fruition.

Follow Tim Hurst on twitter
Images: Sister72 via flickr; © Wmi_photography

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.
  • I believe that the energy obtained from wind and solar will be the key of our green future. I am also happy to see that more and more countries turn their face to renewables.

  • Pingback: Dept of Interior Optimistic About Offshore Wind Potential()

  • Alright, lets say that this site’s assertion is true. How many turbines would need to be constructed, how much would it cost, and how much energy would be lost over the massive transmission distances? Not saying wind is bad, just that it’s not a cure all.

  • Pingback: Wind Turbines Off the North Carolina Coast Could Supply State with 100% of Its Power : CleanTechnica()

  • Pingback: North Carolina Takes Lead in Race for First Offshore Wind | Earth & Industry()

  • Pingback: StatoilHydro Launches First Full Scale Floating Wind-Turbine |

  • ofra

    Some years ago, telecom companies claimed ethat it would take ten years before voice over ip aka VOIP can replace land lines. In less than 2years after that statement all big corporation and small and even household switched from land line to VOIP. Other have switched to wireless carrier.

    Mass production of sustainable energy such as Wind and Solar will completely replace fossil fuel in the next five years or less

  • Pingback: Judge Throws Out Lawsuit Against Cape Wind | ecopolitology()

  • Cyclonus

    We should not just focus on Wind eneregy from off shore. What would happen if a strong hurricane came and destroyed the turbines. Instead we should put tons of solar panels from California to New Mexico and Wind Turbines along with Wave Generators along the coastal states. And then see how much energy we would make.

  • Pingback: Wyoming Gov. Freudenthal: Replacing Coal with Wind 'Ain't going to happen' | ecopolitology()

  • Pingback: Feds Sort Out Offshore Renewable Energy Permitting | ecopolitology()

  • Fran

    How very cool would these look – I see them in many colors – artwork might be a good term and so much better looking that oil platforms….Lets all push for these machines.

  • Pingback: Dept of Interior Optimistic About Offshore Wind Potential | ecopolitology()

  • Jean Kelly Rockwell

    Its about time. We need to do this ASAP!

    We are waiting!

  • MaggieMusic

    This has to be better thought out to asses cost, but I like the idea of off shore. I'm concerned about the wind farms on land where there are lots of birds. Next thing you know we will be endangering some species that flies into the blades and gets turned into mincemeat. That would not be vegan, and it would wrench our animal loving hearts!

  • StoicMan

    They should just have a barge, or ship of some kind, at anchor floating offshore.

    If they can make offshore oil rigs work, why not for wind?

  • If they built the towers of the wind turbines to also contain turbines in the water to harvest the energy in the currents and tides then the generating capacity per tower would increase as well as providing some power generation when the wind is not blowing.

    • great suggestion.. there are actually plans being developed to intergrate wind turbines and wave generaters into the same platform to take advantage this.

  • Let me clear up some of the confusion expressed in the above comments. The 25% number is a number that could be readily developed using currently-available shallow-water turbines (saying nothing of the transmission infrastructure and regulatory approval needed). When Salazar says (and I quote him directly in the article) "wind potential off the coasts of the lower 48 states actually exceeds our entire U.S. electricity demand," it's my understanding he is referring to the potential in both deep and shallow; near shore as well as further out.

  • Wind and solar are all great green technologies. However, cheap electricity will be a thing of the past.

  • Kevin

    This article makes not sense.

    "Dept. of Interior Says Offshore Wind Could Meet 100% of US Demand" and "Atlantic wind farms alone could meet 25% of US electricity needs"

    Please forgive me for using logic, but doesn't that imply that Pacific wind farms could generate the other 75% of US electricity needs. However "the greatest offshore wind energy potential in the U.S. lies off the Atlantic Coast." I guess I must have forgotten about the "coasts of the lower 48 states."

    Okay, complaining aside: I support the cause. Honestly I do. I don't support your method. Your intentionally misleading. Enough BS.

  • Jeremy

    How many wind farms would it take?

    How many miles of beaches would be sacrificed to achieve it?

    How much would it cost to build these farms compared to other sources of energy?

  • Nate

    There are a couple hurdles to be overcome, such as dead calm days and transmission of power. Maybe the "100% of US Demand" in the title is a little much, I mean the report says "20% in most coastal states", but I read it as a very positive step.

  • Thomas

    I got here from popurls.

    We have long put aside using natural forces as a common and practical means as an energy solution.

  • kevin

    Wait a second…Does this not make sense to anyone else,"…the wind potential off the coasts of the lower 48 states…"?

    • they obviously mean the continental states…excluding Alaska and Hawaii

  • John Jones

    So what are we waiting for then? Lets stop wasting endless billions on useless things like Iraq, Afghanistan, and stupid failing banks and corporations. Lets put that money where we will get something back!