While researchers at the Carnegie Institute say it may be possible to power the entire world with just wind power, they can’t say for sure just how many of the units it would require. But engineering experts at Stanford University believe they have figured out how many offshore wind turbines it would take to meet the electricity demands for the entire East Coast of the United States: 144,000 of them.

In a study published in the journal Wind Energy (PDF), the authors detailed how their five years of modeling studies determined that by placing 144,000 offshore wind turbines – each 270 feet high and each capable of generating 5 megawatts of power – up and down the coast from Maine to Florida we could provide enough electricity for the entire region.

While looking for the best places to capture and utilize wind energy, the researchers looked for regions with a low hurricane risk, a water depth of less than 100 feet, and areas without any conflicting uses such as shipping lanes or bird migration paths. The offshore area from Virginia to Maine was found to have “the most exceptional overall resource” due to wind patterns and a significantly less chance of devastating hurricane activity in the future. For the area south of Virginia down to Florida, the report stated that quite a large area could be available for offshore wind if the concept of floating turbines were developed into more feasible units from their current prototype-like state.

“People mistakenly think that wind energy is not useful because output from most land-based turbines peaks in the late evening/early morning, when electricity demand is low,” said Mike Dvorak, principle author of the study. “The real value of offshore wind energy is that it often peaks when we need the most electricity — during the middle of the day.”

With the $2.5 billion Cape Wind Project starting to take shape off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard and lawsuits opposing it being dropped, we could soon see much more offshore wind development in the near future. Currently the U.S. gets just 4 percent of its electricity from wind power. Would residents up and down the East Coast trade off the distant sight of 144,000 turbines off the coast of their beach to know all their power is coming from a clean and renewable source? Would you?

[via NBC News]

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