The ability to measure and assess available wind resources is crucial to the development, siting, and operation of a wind energy plant. The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) supports efforts to accurately define, measure, and forecast the nation's land-based and offshore wind resources.
WETO is leading a portfolio of wind resource assessment projects that will help the industry more accurately predict and measure wind speed, wind direction, and ambient turbulence. This research, in turn, allows wind power plant operators to provide a clean, renewable, domestic power supply to businesses and homeowners at lower costs, while reliably integrating wind energy into the nation's power grids.
Current estimates show that the U.S. land-based wind resource potential spans between 2.2 and 15.1 terawatts—a wide range resulting from uncertainties in estimating conditions and assumptions. In either case, these estimates for wind energy far exceed current U.S. electricity needs.
The 2022 Offshore Wind Resource Assessment conducted by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) determined that offshore wind has 1.5 terawatts of fixed-bottom technical resource potential and 2.8 terawatts of floating offshore wind energy technical resource potential across eight areas in the contiguous United States. Combined, the potential of offshore wind and floating offshore wind represents enough energy to cover three times the U.S. annual electricity consumption.
Wind Resource Maps
When developers plan a new wind power plant, they rely on location-specific data regarding wind speed, meteorological patterns, terrain, and other factors to inform siting and design decisions.
Wind resource maps provide a quick and simple understanding of wind resource potential. These maps also show geographic boundaries and topographic features.
In addition, interactive maps and geospatial data provide wind supply curves, which characterize the quantity, quality, and cost of land-based and offshore wind energy resources.
For a comprehensive interactive listing of wind resource characterization projects funded by WETO, see the project map and select the program area: Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) Plant Optimization and Resource Characterization.
Spatial Analysis for Wind Energy Technology Development
NREL researchers are working to improve the space and time detail that informs understanding of the nation’s wind resource potential. To more accurately characterize the potential wind energy production at individual sites across the country, including land-based and offshore wind energy applications, researchers are adding capabilities and data within the Renewable Energy Potential (reV) model. This work enhances the ability to understand how changes in technology, as well as siting policy and wildlife risks, might impact the nation’s wind energy potential and pathways to increased utilization of wind energy.
Atmosphere to Electrons Initiative
DOE's A2e research initiative is focused on improving the performance and reliability of wind power plants by establishing an unprecedented understanding of how the Earth’s atmosphere interacts with wind power plants and developing technologies to maximize energy harnessed from 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 power 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, usable electric power. Learn more about recent A2e news.
The following are some of the research efforts conducted under the A2e initiative.
Part of the A2e effort to improve the efficiency of wind power plants, the American WAKE experimeNt (AWAKEN) leverages the experience, instrumentation, and capabilities of multiple institutions to conduct the most comprehensive wind energy wake experiment to date. AWAKEN is designed to gather high-fidelity (highly detailed) observations of wind turbines and power plants operating in representative atmospheric conditions and then use these data to advance the understanding of wind power plant physics.
Another A2e effort, ExaWind is an open-source suite of codes designed for multifidelity simulation of wind turbines and wind farms. This state-of-the-art software tool provides a computer-generated environment where researchers and engineers can test ideas, including potentially disruptive technology, before moving forward with development. ExaWind’s simulations are expected to improve understanding of wind farm physics and, in turn, lower costs associated with wind power plant development. ExaWind was developed with funding from DOE through WETO, the Office of Science, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Office of Technology Transitions.
Offshore Wind Research Lidar Buoys
The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory manages two AXYS WindSentinel™ lidar buoys for offshore wind resource characterization on behalf of WETO. The buoys use atmospheric and oceanographic measurement capabilities to capture data, such as wind speed at multiple heights, wind directions, buoy positions, air and sea surface temperatures, ocean current speeds and directions, and wave heights and directions. With funding from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory deployed the buoys off the California coast, where they gathered meteorological and oceanographic measurements to support Bureau of Ocean Energy Management decisions on potential leasing of wind energy sites.
Data Archive and Portal
The Data Archive and Portal, or DAP, serves as a repository for all data collected through A2e research and is accessible through an open, secure, and easy-to-navigate user interface. Managed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, DAP also provides state-of-the-science data services crucial for advancing A2e research, communications, and wind knowledge discovery. DAP facilitates community data access, interaction, and collaboration among wind energy researchers, wind plant developers and owners, wind energy consultants, wind turbine manufacturers, and more.
As demonstrated through the A2e initiative, WETO often partners with other DOE offices, government agencies, universities, and industry members to assess and characterize U.S. wind resources. Assessment results are then made publicly available, enabling the wind energy industry to identify areas best suited for the development of future land-based and offshore wind power plants.
Additional WETO efforts supported through federal partnerships include the following.
Wind Forecast Improvement Projects
In partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the WETO-led Wind Forecast Improvement Projects are designed to develop more accurate methods for determining wind forecasts. Using targeted wind observations and advanced forecast models and algorithms, this research helps system operators anticipate the electrical output of wind energy plants and, in turn, help manage the contribution of wind energy to electricity grids.
Wind Integration National Dataset (WIND) Toolkit
In addition to funding support from WETO, DOE laboratories have partnered with the National Offshore Wind R&D Consortium and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to develop new, precise, and reliable methods for documenting meteorological and oceanographic (metocean) conditions. This data and numerical modeling are used to update and enhance DOE’s Wind Integration National Dataset Toolkit—the most extensive public data set of its kind in the United States. Ultimately, these efforts will lead to more robust estimates of offshore wind resources, power production, and design loads, informing and improving the technical and economic viability of wind energy plants. Download additional maps and wind data sets.