Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, is the home to the first offshore wind farm in the United States.
Built by the Deepwater Wind development group and opened in December 2016, the wind farm can power up to 17,000 homes and has already ended the island residents’ reliance on power generated by diesel fuel.
While Block Island is the only offshore wind farm in the nation, the potential for offshore wind energy generation in all coastal areas of the United States is enormous, data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows.
The map below shows the technical potential for U.S. offshore wind energy, calculated by the Laboratory.
In California alone, the potential for offshore wind energy is more than 2.6 million gigawatt hours of power.
That would equal 65 percent of the total electricity generated in 2016 at utility-scale facilities in the United States, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration analyzed by CGTN America. Utility-scale facilities are power plants with at least one megawatt of total electricity generating capacity.
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U.S. offshore wind energy technical potential
In contrast to the United States, Europe has harnessed the power of offshore wind energy since the world’s first offshore wind farm was built off the coast of Denmark in 1991.
After more than 20 years of development, 81 wind farms with grid-connected turbines dot Europe’s coasts. According to an annual report published by WindEurope, about 1,558 megawatts were added to the 11,073 megawatts of cumulative wind power in 2016, which is almost three times the total electricity consumed by the country of Denmark in 2015 according to data from the CIA analyzed by CGTN America.
ONSHORE WIND POWER HAS LONGER HISTORY
While offshore wind power is still new, onshore wind farms have a much longer history in the United States and are the only possible source of wind energy for people who are not near the coast.
The map below shows all onshore wind turbines in the United States as of March 2014 as well as the total technical potential for onshore wind energy, based on data from National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Survey.