Offshore Wind Energy - Buoy Lidar Project


A 2014 study estimated that U.S. offshore wind energy could generate enough power for 17 million homes. More than a dozen offshore wind farms are in various stages of development in the United States. The demonstration projects in Virginia and New Jersey receive funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Primary Contact(s)

William Shaw
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


How much electricity could ocean winds generate if they were harnessed? The DOE is attempting to answer that question with help from two massive 20,000-pound buoys deployed to measure offshore winds near Virginia Beach, Virginia and then to the site of a proposed wind farm off the Atlantic City, New Jersey shore. In 2020 the buoys will be moved to the coast of California for a year long study.

Purchased by the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the instrument-laden buoy deployed in Virginia was briefly commissioned at PNNL Marine Sciences Laboratory, operated by Battelle for DOE, at the mouth of Sequim Bay in Washington's Puget Sound.


Both high-tech buoys use lidar (light detection and ranging) and other meteorological and oceanographic instruments that measure wind speed and direction and record air and sea temperature, barometric pressure, relative humidity, wave height and period, water conductivity, and subsurface ocean currents. The buoys will gather data to help characterize offshore winds. The information will help validate wind-resource models used to estimate the potential for generating energy from U.S. ocean winds.

Data from the buoys also will be used to gain a better understanding of air-sea interactions and their impact on the potential for producing wind energy with turbines. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage private investment in large-scale offshore wind energy development.

Processed Data

Processed data in NetCDF format are available for the Virginia deployment (December 11, 2014 to May 31, 2016).

For the New Jersey deployment (November 2, 2015 to February 7, 2017).

Validation Deployment 2019

In 2019, the original lidar systems were replaced by Leosphere Windcube 866 lidar systems. Following the installation of the two new lidar systems, the buoys and new Leosphere Windcube 866 systems will undergo an offshore validation in late 2019 to measure and document the uncertainty of the lidar wind measurements.

The buoys will be deployed for four to six weeks approximately two miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and the Leosphere Windcube 866 systems will be validated against a validated lidar system installed on the Air-Sea Interaction Tower (ASIT) operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). To ensure compliance with recommended practices published by the Carbon Trust, an independent wind resource consultant will certify the validation approach and execution.

Raw data from this deployment will be archived. The validation reports are linked to these dataset pages.

California Coastal Deployment 2020

In September 2020, the buoys were deployed off the California coast to conduct a year-long wind resource characterization campaign in partnership with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The buoys were moored in the Morro Bay Call Area in central California and the Humboldt Call Area in northern California--both areas are being considered for a commercial offshore wind development.

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