Gulf of Mexico Offshore Wind Energy Hurricane Risk Assessment

Lauren Mudd, Peter Vickery, Rebecca Fuchs, Rebecca Fuchs (NREL Technical Monitor)

Research output: NRELSubcontract Report


NREL's feasibility assessment of offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico concluded that hurricane risk was one of the major challenges that would need to be overcome for a mature offshore wind industry to develop in the Gulf of Mexico. To ensure the robust design of wind turbines in the Gulf of Mexico, it is critical to understand the added risk posed by the threat of major hurricanes, as those affecting the Gulf of Mexico region have a significant potential to exceed design limits prescribed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) wind design standards. To satisfy this charge, this project defines the wind hazard for the Gulf of Mexico Offshore Wind Energy area using the hurricane hazard model develop by Applied Research Associates and published extensively in the open literature. In doing so, the return periods associated with the IEC Class 1A and Typhoon Class limit-state hurricanes are estimated on a grid with nominal resolution of 10 km to determine where hurricane risk results in the exceedance of the IEC design criteria. On the same grid, wind speeds hazard contours associated with return periods varying from 50 to 1,000 years are also estimated. An additional challenge in assessing hurricane wind speed risk in the Gulf of Mexico arises from inconsistent terminology across the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale and the IEC design criteria. Saffir-Simpson definitions are based on 1-minute sustained wind speeds estimated at 10-m height over marine terrain, while the IEC uses a different averaging period (3-second versus 1-minute) and reference height (assumed herein a hub height of 150 m versus 10 m). Employing the latest research on turbulence characteristics of the hurricane boundary layer, conversions between various durations (e.g., 3-seconds, 1-minute, 10-minutes, 1-hour) and between elevations near the surface (10 m) to near hub height (assumed herein 150 m) are developed. IEC Class 1A and Typhoon Class limit states are also provided in terms of an equivalent Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind speed category.
Original languageAmerican English
PublisherNational Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
Number of pages66
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/SR-5000-88211


  • Gulf of Mexico
  • hurricane
  • offshore wind design standards
  • risk assessment


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