Standford University: Offshore wind turbines can power US East Coast

According to a focused study by Standford University scientists, more than 140,000 offshore wind turbines can power the entire East Coast of the United States, which accounts for a third of the country’s total energy demand.

U.S. East Coast Offshore Wind Energy Resources and Their Relationship to Peak-Time Electricity Demand” is a groundbreaking quantitative analysis of offshore wind energy on the US East Coast. It calculated that offshore wind turbines placed in the Maine-to-Virginia corridor would satisfy the peak-time power needs of the nearby states during the autumn, winter, and spring seasons. Better yet, the said area rarely experiences hurricanes.

We knew there was a lot of wind out there,” explained Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, the Standford team’s leader, “but this is the first actual quantification of the total resource and the time of day that the resource peaks.” According to Professor Jacobson, the study will provide wind farm developers with practical information on where to build wind turbines.

In the study, the Standford scientists ran a series of computer models hypothesizing a large wind farm off the East Coast. The hypothetical farm would have 140,000 wind turbines, each capable of generating 5 MW of electricity.The computer models calculated that the wind farm could generate between 965 to 1,372 terawatt hours of electricity. Such a farm could power one-third of the United States.

According to Standford researcher Mike Dvorak, there is a mistaken notion that wind energy is not useful. Most land-based turbines produce the most output during the late evening and early morning periods, when electricity demand is low. Mr. Dvorak pointed out that offshore wind energy, however, often peaks during the middle of the day, when people require the most electricity.

One requirement raised by the Standford team is that the turbines of the wind far should be installed far offshore, out of sight from land. This will protect marine life at the shallower regions and preserve the view of the ocean.

The Standford team hope that their report will help determine the most rewarding locations to build wind farms. Professor Mark Jacobson admitted that wind power has a higher initial cost, but he also added that prices will eventually stabilize.

There’s zero fuel costs once they’re in the water,” Professor Jacobson said. “Coal and gas are depletable resources, so their cost will inevitably go up over time. The cost of wind energy will remain stable,” he brought up, “and the wind resource is infinite.”

Readers interested in the specific details of the Standford paper can read it here.

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