‘Wake effect’ could drain 38% of offshore wind power, study says

By Heather Richards | 05/06/2024 06:53 AM EDT

The findings from national lab and university researchers upend assumptions about how turbines interact with each other.

Wind turbines in Block Island Sound east of Montauk, New York.

A new study finds that offshore wind turbines in close proximity may drain energy from each other. Bruce Bennett/AFP via Getty Images

Wind turbines off the East Coast might significantly drain energy from each other, lowering the power output of an offshore farm by up to 38 percent, according to a new study that challenges early assumptions about the nascent industry’s electricity contribution.

The findings add to growing research about the “wake effect,” which is when offshore turbines in close proximity affect each other’s energy output.

Researchers from the University of Colorado and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that entire wind farms can impede neighboring projects, decreasing the power production of adjacent farms by up to 15 percent under some conditions.


“It’s a wake-up call for the industry,” said Mike Optis, president of wind energy research firm Veer Renewables and one of the study’s authors. “Wake effects can drastically impact offshore wind power production, certainly more than we thought.”