BOSTON -- Offshore wind has the potential to deliver 90 percent of America's projected 2050 electricity demand. This finding comes from Offshore Wind for America, a new report released Thursday by Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group that examines U.S. offshore wind potential by coastal region and by state. Offshore Wind for America also documents the status of existing projects and technological advances.
The report examined the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf and Great Lakes regions and found that each has the capacity to develop offshore wind. The Atlantic region is the clear frontrunner in terms of its potential to generate offshore wind, with the capacity, if fully developed, to generate four times as much electricity as the region used in 2019. The Gulf is second, followed by the Pacific and then the Great Lake regions in their potential capacity.
“Offshore wind is a renewable energy gold mine begging to be used,” said Johanna Neumann, senior director of Environment America Research & Policy Center’s Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy. “If we went out today and maximized its potential, offshore wind alone could provide almost double the amount of electricity used by the entire U.S. in 2019. But even if we just unlock a fraction of America’s offshore wind capacity, it would help put us on track for a future powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Coupled with other renewable energy sources like solar and onshore wind, offshore wind promises to throw open the gates to a cleaner, healthier future for our kids and future generations.”
In total, 29 states were examined in the report. Massachusetts has the potential to generate the most offshore wind power of any state, while Maine has by far the highest ratio of potential offshore wind power to its current and future electricity needs. For projections of 2050 electricity demand, the report assumes that U.S. buildings, industry and transportation will all be powered by electricity rather than fossil fuels by mid-century.
“Nineteen states have the potential to produce more power from offshore wind than all the electricity they used in 2019,” said co-author Bryn Huxley-Reicher of Frontier Group. “And eleven states have the technical capacity to produce more electricity than they would be expected to use in 2050, even if they go all-electric. When you pair that potential with energy conservation and efficiency, you can start to imagine a world that really is fossil fuel-free.”
The report also highlights how the rise of offshore wind in Europe and Asia has played an important role in advancing offshore wind technologies. Notably, turbine size, generation capacity and efficiency are improving, while the introduction of floating turbines will be crucial for expanding offshore wind potential in states with especially deep coastal water, such as Maine and California.
“Offshore wind has already proven to be a tremendous success internationally, so these are not uncharted waters,” said Hannah Read, Go Big on Offshore Wind associate with Environment America Research & Policy Center. “America needs to follow the trend and develop renewable energy sources close to where we need the power, on our coasts where 40 percent of Americans live.”
The U.S. currently has two operational offshore wind farms and dozens of projects in the pipeline. Several Atlantic states have set enforceable targets for offshore wind in their energy mixes, but the report concludes that more state leadership and regional collaboration is needed to drive demand for offshore wind.
“For offshore wind to succeed, we need to set strong, enforceable targets around it,” Read said. “The sheer abundance of this incredible renewable resource should convince our state leaders to make bold commitments to start powering our homes with offshore wind.”
Environment America Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment. It is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.