Atmosphere Daily Earth Science Energy Repost

U.S. East Coast, a hot spot for clean energy

“The breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.” 
― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Think of the wind as the earth’s heat distribution engine. After all, heat changes the density of air, so hot air rises and cold air falls. The rising and falling create pressure differences that drive the winds.  When hot air ascends, it creates a partial vacuum and, then air moves in from other places to fill the void, creating wind. I am constantly surprised that Washington DC is not the “windy city” instead of Chicago. 

The quote “If you build it, he will come” (1989 – Field of Dreams) does not apply to wind farms. The wind doesn’t come to us, so we must go to the wind. Geography is all-important in harnessing wind power; perhaps “If the wind comes, we will build it” is a better quote for today. Because of the different ways land and oceans deal with heat, coastal transition zones are lucrative spots for wind power. This phenomenon is not lost on the clean energy business, and the next big foray into wind-generated electricity will be offshore wind farms. The U.S. East Coast is a hot spot for developing wind power projects.

A map of where the wind blows (below) demonstrates why wind energy companies are flocking to the coastal seas from Virginia to Massachusetts. But geography is only half of the charm for this area. That northeast stretch of the eastern seaboard is the most densely populated region in the country. So offshore wind farms along the northeast Atlantic Coast generate electricity close to the areas with enormous power demands, a win-win situation. The map also shows why the mid-continent is the location for four of the five states currently producing the most U.S.wind power.

Map showing wind speeds at 262 feet above the earth’s surface. Purples and reds show the highest wind speeds, making the mid-continent and East Coast prime locations for harnessing wind power. (Source: NREL)


Leasing property is the first step towards moving a wind farm from concept to reality. The oil field saying is “no lease, no grease.” The same philosophy also applies to wind power. According to the Law of the Sea, the U.S. territorial sea extends 12 nautical miles (nm) from the coast, but the county’s exclusive economic zone extends 200nm. This means that the Federal government controls most of the offshore. Along the East Coast, the U.S. Department of the Interior – Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) conducts leasing.

To date, BOEM’s wind energy lease sales have resulted in 13 lease awards ranging from the Virginia-North Carolina border to Cape Cod (Map below).  Currently, the Block Island Wind Farm off the Rhode Island coast is the only location with installed turbines. The five turbines in this project cost $300 million to build and install, and they have a capacity of 30 megawatts (M.W.). According to the EIA, one megawatt will power 800 average U.S. homes. Energy forecasts predict that this capacity could rise to 16,000 MW by 2030. Business analysts predict that offshore wind will be a $70 billion business by then. Ultimately offshore wind has the capability of providing more electrical power than the USA currently uses. However, its final role in American energy will be determined through weighing costs and benefits. 

Source: MARCO – Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal

Commitments to clean energy targets by eastern seaboard states are key drivers behind current investments in offshore wind power along the Atlantic coast. States are moving towards clean energy while the Federal Government dithers.


Offshore wind power: A bright future or a blight on golfers? (Source: ArcheanWeb) –  Also:

A Breezy Future: The Rise Of Wind Power (Source: ArcheanWeb) – Also:


U.S. Maritime Limits & Boundaries (Source: NOAA) –  Also:

How much electricity does an American home use? (Source: EIA) –  Also:

Atlantic Coast States Plan Expensive Offshore Wind Farms (Source: IER – Institute for Energy Research) –  Also:

Lease and Grant Information (Source: BOEM – Also:

How much electricity does an American home use? (Source: EIA) –  Also:

US has only one offshore wind energy farm, but a $70 billion market is on the way (By Bob Woods; CNBC) –  Also:

Feature Image: Dorian 2019 (Modified) – By CIRA/NOAA. – GOES-East – Sector view: U.S. Atlantic Coast – GeoColor – True Color daytime, multispectral IR at night – 02 Sep 2019, 06:00-08:00 UTC. GeoColor imagery by CIRA/NOAA., Public Domain,

William House
William is an earth scientist and writer with an interest in providing the science "backstory" for breaking environmental, earth science, and climate change news.