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Wind Resource Assessment and Characterization

A crucial factor in the development, siting, and operation of a wind farm is the ability to assess and characterize available wind resources. The Wind Program 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 farms to supply clean, renewable power to businesses and homeowners at lower costs. The program is leading a portfolio of wind integration, transmission, and 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.

Wind Potential Capacity Maps

United States wind potential capacity at 140 meters.

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. These maps illustrate the new opportunities that technological innovations are bringing to the U.S. wind industry, as well as the promise of next-generation wind technology.

Land-Based and Offshore Wind Resource Map

Wind resource map of the United States.

The map shown above provides wind developers and policy makers with a seamless representation of the wind resources estimated at a 100 m height for all 50 states—the 48 contiguous states, Alaska, and Hawaii—as well as offshore resources up to 50 nautical miles from shore. A technical wind resource assessment completed by the Wind Program 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 2010 report estimates the technical offshore wind energy potential to be 4,150 GW. The estimate was calculated from the total offshore area within 50 nautical miles of shore in areas where average annual wind speeds are at least 7 m per second at a height of 90 m.

For state-level wind resource maps, see the WINDExchange website. View more online maps and download wind datasets from the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Learn more about wind resource potential.

Federal Partnerships

The Energy Department's Wind Program 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 farms.

Weather-Dependent and Oceanic Renewable Energy Resource Characterization

In Fiscal Year 2011, the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy signed 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

Featured Projects

Wind Forecast Improvement Project

The Wind Program and NOAA co-fund a forecast improvement project that uses targeted wind observations and advanced forecast models and algorithms to help manage the contribution of wind energy to electricity grids. The Wind Forecast Improvement Project round one final report is now available.

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 Program 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 or USMODCORE. The data inventory incorporates resources from federal agencies, state governments, regional alliances, research institutions, commercial projects, and international organizations.

Atmosphere to Electrons Initiative

Wind farm underperformance, currently as high as 20% in some cases, presents a large opportunity for the Wind Program to increase the performance of wind farms and reduce the cost of wind power. To address this opportunity, the Program is studying the multi-scale aerodynamics impacting wind plant performance in modern land-based and offshore wind farms. The Program's Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) initiative spans several spatial scales, from global and regional wind flows to flows into individual wind turbines and rotor blades. The A2e initiative targets significant reductions in the cost of wind energy through an improved understanding of the complex physics governing wind flow into and through wind farms. In support of these efforts, the program organized a two-day workshop in early 2012 to identify research needs and challenges relating to the study of wind into and out of the wind turbine environment, as well as the resulting impacts on the mechanical workings of individual wind turbines. The results of this workshop are documented in the Program’s Complex Flow Workshop Report.

Resource Assessment and Characterization News

  • January 8, 2015

    The Energy Department today announced $2.5 million for a new project to research the atmospheric processes that generate wind in mountain-valley regions. This in-depth research, conducted by Vaisala of Louisville, Colorado, will be used to improve the wind industry's weather models for short-term wind forecasts, especially for those issued less than 15 hours in advance.

  • December 10, 2014

    Our National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), together with the Energy Department’s Wind Program and AWS Truepower, has released new maps that illustrate vast potential for wind energy in the United States.

  • September 12, 2014

    Starting in 2012, researchers tried placing spotlights downwind from the 2.5-megawatt (MW) wind turbine in Rosemount, Minnesota. The research team was attempting to study turbulent airflow around a turbine in the field.

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