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Offshore Wind 101

The strong wind resource off the U.S. Atlantic coast has tremendous renewable energy generation potential. New York State is working to responsibly and cost-effectively develop renewable energy sources to provide 70% of the State’s electrical power by 2030. Offshore wind is poised to become a major asset in the State’s transition away from harmful fossil fuels towards a 100% carbon-free energy future by 2040.

How Big Are Offshore Wind Turbines?

Height comparisons:

  • Statue of Liberty: 305 ft.
  • Empire State Building: 1,454 ft.
  • Average Onshore U.S. Turbine: 466 ft.
  • Tallest Onshore U.S. Turbine: 574 ft.
  • Block Island Offshore Wind Project: 590 ft.
  • GE Haliade-X Offshore Turbine: 853 ft.

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Comparison of the heights of onshore and offshore wind turbines with Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building.


How It Works

Offshore wind turbines work to harness the ocean’s vast wind and convert it into 100% renewable electricity.

Overview of Power Generation

  1. Offshore Turbines capture the wind's energy and generate electricity.
  2. Foundations secure turbines to the ocean floor and cables transmit electricity to an offshore substation
  3. Electricity flows through a buried cable to an onshore substation and is transferred to the existing transmission network.

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Graphic showing offshore and onshore landscape with respect to offshore wind energy generation and transmission. Two offshore wind turbines with are depicted. Electricity from the turbines moves towards an offshore substation through undersea cables. From there, the electricity moves to the onshore substation through a buried cable where it is then transferred to the existing transmission network.

Turbine Components

  1. Hub. The hub supports the blades and houses the pitch system, which optimizes blade angle and rotation speed.
  2. Blades. Blades capture the wind's energy and convert it into mechanical energy.
  3. Nacelle. The nacelle houses the components that convert mechanical energy to electrical energy.
  4. Tower. The tower supports the mass of the nacelle, hub, and blades.

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Graphic showing the basic components of an offshore wind turbine. The hub supports the blades and houses the pitch system, which optimizes blade angle and rotational speed. The blades capture the wind’s energy and convert it into mechanical energy. The nacelle houses the components that convert mechanical to electrical energy. The tower supports the mass of the nacelle, hub, and blades.

Foundations, Array Cables, and Offshore Substation

  1. Foundation. Foundations secure the tower and above-water turbine components to the sea floor. A variety of technologies are available, including jackets, monopiles, and gravity-based foundations.
  2. Array Cables. A network of array cables link the wind turbines together and deliver power from the turbines to the offshore substation.
  3. Offshore Substation. The offshore substation collects and stabilizes the power generated by the turbines, preparing it for transmission to shore.

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Graphic showing how power gets from an offshore wind turbine to the offshore substation. The jacket foundation secures the tower and above-water turbine components to the sea floor. Array cables link the wind turbines together and deliver power from the turbines to the offshore substation. The offshore substation collects the power and prepares it for transmission to shore.

Export Cable and Onshore Connection

  1. Export Cable. The export cable is buried deep enough to avoid disturbing ocean users and wildlife, and it transmits power from the offshore substation to the onshore substation.
  2. Cable Landing. Horizontal direction drilling, a common method for landing export transmission cables from offshore wind farms, minimizes environmental impacts and disruption to beaches and the shoreline.
  3. Onshore Connection. Electricity is transferred to the existing transmission network.

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Graphic showing how power gets from the offshore substation to the onshore substation. The buried export cable transmits power from the offshore substation to the onshore substation. Electricity is then transferred to the existing transmission network.


The Role of Government

Offshore wind development in the U.S. is overseen by both federal and state agencies. Local governments may also be involved for local land-use approvals.

The Federal Role

The federal government has jurisdiction over all ocean activities more than three nautical miles from the shore. Specifically, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is responsible for selecting areas of the ocean that are appropriate for wind energy development, leasing the wind energy areas (WEAs) to project developers, and reviewing and approving all aspects of plans to design, develop, and decommission offshore wind farms in federal waters as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Other Involved Agencies

The State Role

Through competitive solicitations, NYSERDA contracts with offshore wind developers who want to deliver power to New York State. Specifically, NYSERDA purchases offshore renewable energy certificates (ORECs) from the developers in order to account for the beneficial environmental attributes associated with generating clean power. Contracts with offshore wind developers include important provisions that dictate how New York State will benefit from the project, such as economic benefit commitments and environmental and fishing mitigation plans.

The Local Role

Renewable energy from offshore wind farms connects to New York’s existing electricity grid at onshore substations. When determining an optimal route from the shore to a local substation, project developers consult with relevant local governments and may enter into easement agreements if the route transacts government-owned roads or property.


Alternate language versions (Spanish, Chinese, Arabic) of most documents are available in the Resource Library.