A crucial factor in the development, siting, and operation of a wind plant is the ability to assess and characterize available wind resources. The Wind Energy Technologies Office supports efforts to accurately define, measure, and forecast the nation's land-based and offshore wind resources. More accurate prediction and measurement of wind speed and direction allow wind plants to supply clean, renewable power to businesses and homeowners at lower costs. The office is leading a portfolio of wind resource assessment and characterization projects that will help the industry understand how to reliably integrate large quantities of wind energy into system operations, as well as develop capabilities that will enable these new wind installations to actively improve the quality of electric grid. For a comprehensive interactive listing of wind resource characterization projects funded by the Wind Energy Technologies Office, see the Wind Energy Technologies Office Projects Map and select the Program Area Atmosphere to electrons: Plant Optimization and Resource Characterization.
Land-Based and Offshore Wind Resource Map
A technical wind resource assessment completed by the Wind Energy Technologies Office in 2009 estimated that the land-based wind energy potential for the contiguous United States is 10,500 gigawatt (GW) capacity at 80 meters (m) and 12,000 GW capacity at 100 m heights, assuming a capacity factor of at least 30%.
A 2016 assessment of offshore wind resources refines previous assessments by first calculating the gross resource potential within 200 nautical miles of shore using 100-meter hub heights as 10,800 GW. Technical, environmental, and competing-use exclusions are then applied to find a technical resource potential of 2,058 GW of capacity or 7,203 terawatt-hours per year of generation, which is nearly double the nation’s annual electricity use. As illustrated below, the technical resource potential applies technological exclusions such as where the water is deeper than 1,000 meters or where wind speeds less than 7 meters per second, as well as land-use and environmental exclusions such as shipping lanes, wildlife refuges, and marine protected areas.
Land-Based Potential Wind Capacity Maps
The map shown above identifies areas throughout the country that have an average wind energy capacity factor of 35% or greater at a turbine hub height of 140 meters (459 feet), representing planned turbine advancements. An additional map identifies areas with the same potential capacity at a turbine hub height of 110 meters (361 feet), representing recent advancements in turbine technology. The Energy Department's report, Enabling Wind Power Nationwide, confirms that the key to unlocking wind energy’s potential in all 50 states is to access the stronger and more consistent winds found at increased heights above the ground. Learn more about R&D to access this resource on our Wind Manufacturing web page.
Wind Forecast Improvement Project
In partnership with NOAA, the DOE Wind Energy Technologies Office led a Wind Forecast Improvement Project (WFIP) using targeted wind observations and advanced forecast models and algorithms to help manage the contribution of wind energy to electricity grids. The first phase of the project, WFIP 1, examined the impact of improved initial conditions in advanced forecast models, which led to an 8% increase in accuracy. The second phase of the project, WFIP 2 focused on the atmospheric processes that impact wind forecasts in regions with complex terrain, with fieldwork beginning in 2015.
Offshore Resource Assessment and Design Conditions
The offshore energy industry requires accurate meteorological and oceanographic information to evaluate the energy potential, economic viability, and engineering requirements of offshore energy project sites. The Wind Energy Technologies Office is working to address these needs through data dissemination, instrumentation and observational improvements, and next-generation tool development. DOE's public meeting on resource assessment and design conditions was the first step in addressing these information gaps and helped to shape a path forward for future priorities.
As a subsequent step, the program funded AWS Truepower to develop a Web-based, searchable, national met-ocean wind energy resource and design conditions data inventory, the U.S. Met-Ocean Data Center for Offshore Renewable Energy (USMODCORE). The data inventory incorporates resources from federal agencies, state governments, regional alliances, research institutions, commercial projects, and international organizations.
Additionally, the Energy Department's WindSentinel wind resource characterization buoys will provide long-term offshore wind profile data that will support research needed to accelerate the utilization of offshore wind energy in the United States. DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory deployed floating lidar buoys off the coasts of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Atlantic City, New Jersey to collect weather and wave data that will play an important role in both wind plant design and in securing project financing. Access the data on the Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) Data Archive and Portal.
Atmosphere to Electrons Initiative
Wind plant underperformance, currently as high as 20% in some cases, presents a large opportunity for the Wind Energy Technologies Office to increase the performance of wind plants and reduce the cost of wind power. DOE's Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) research initiative is focused on improving the performance and reliability of wind plants by establishing an unprecedented understanding of how the Earth’s atmosphere interacts with the wind plants and developing innovative technologies to maximize energy extraction from the wind.
The A2e initiative pursues an integrated research portfolio to coordinate and optimize advancements in four main research areas:
- Plant performance and financial risk assessment
- Atmospheric science
- Wind plant aerodynamics
- Next-generation wind plant technology.
The goal of A2e is to ensure future plants are sited, built, and operated in a way that produces the most cost-effective electrons—in the form of usable electric power—from the winds that pass through the plant. Learn more about the A2e initiative.
The Energy Department's Wind Energy Technologies Office works with other government agencies, universities, and industry members to assess and characterize U.S. wind resources. Assessment results are then made publicly available, enabling the wind industry to identify areas best suited for the development of future land-based and offshore wind plants.
Weather-Dependent and Oceanic Renewable Energy Resource Characterization
Since 2011, the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has operated under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for Weather-Dependent and Oceanic Renewable Energy Resource Characterization to enhance the accuracy, precision, and completeness of resource information for wind and water energy technologies. In combining the technical expertise of the Energy Department with NOAA's advanced capabilities in the prediction, mapping, and forecasting of oceanic and atmospheric conditions, the two agencies work to develop the safe and efficient use of weather-dependent and oceanic renewable energy technologies.
Coordinated Deployment of Offshore Wind and Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf
In 2010, the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy signed an MOU with the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for the Coordinated Deployment of Offshore Wind and Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. The MOU established working groups of agency staff to work together on addressing specific topic areas necessary for the deployment of offshore energy systems. The Resource Assessment and Design Conditions Working Group coordinates research activities to increase our understanding of core atmospheric and oceanic conditions relevant to offshore renewable energy.
Involved federal partners: U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Defense, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, and Executive Office of the President