Oil, gas or wind: What produces more energy per offshore acre?

Canary’s chart of the week highlights some drastic differences in the amount of energy produced from a single leased offshore acre.

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Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

Offshore leasing for energy development has been in the news thanks to the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, which requires the federal government to offer new leases for oil and gas drilling off America’s coastlines before it can offer new leases for offshore wind. In terms of energy output per acre, however, leasing for offshore wind is a more productive use of U.S. waters, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.

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The report uses vehicle miles as a way to compare the three types of offshore energy development. One average productive acre of oil leasing generates enough gasoline to drive a car 1,917 miles. One acre of fossil-gas leasing produces enough electricity to drive an electric car 99,572 miles. One acre of wind leasing beats them both, producing enough electricity to drive an electric car 117,919 miles. 

Leasing for wind development also raises much more money for Americans than does leasing for oil or gas. The average winning bid per acre for offshore oil and gas leases from 2019 to the present was $47, according to the report. For offshore wind, the figure is a dramatically higher $5,906.

The average acre from an offshore wind lease sale brings in nearly 12,500 percent more revenue for taxpayers than 1 acre of oil while providing enough electricity to drive an electric vehicle almost 65 times farther than a gasoline-powered vehicle,” writes Michael Freeman, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress and author of the report. 

Offshore wind is expected to play a key role in decarbonization as a major source of clean energy, and countries around the world have been installing offshore turbines at a fast clip. Last year, more than 21 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity were connected worldwide, 80 percent of that in China. In the U.S., the industry is only just getting started, but states on the East Coast have set goals to bring more than 36 gigawatts of offshore wind online by or before 2040, and California recently set a target to install 25 gigawatts by 2045.

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Maria Virginia Olano is editorial and research associate at Canary Media.