WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two federal agencies are partnering to pursue more offshore wind energy along the Atlantic Coast, though much of North Carolina’s coastline doesn’t seem to be involved.
Meanwhile, state officials are pursuing similar plans.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an announcement June 14 they’ve entered into an agreement to support planning and reviewing renewable energy projects on the outer continental shelf. The partnership is made in an effort to pursue President Joe Biden’s Executive Order 14008, which commits to creating 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.
In an action mirroring President Biden’s executive order, Gov. Roy Cooper issued June 9 his own executive order, E.O. 218. According to a press release from his office, the order highlights “North Carolina’s commitment to offshore wind power.”
“Offshore wind power will help North Carolina create jobs and generate economic development while helping us transition to a clean energy economy,” Gov. Cooper said in the release. “North Carolina’s national leadership in clean energy and manufacturing, plus our highly trained workforce, create a strong business environment for offshore wind supply chain and manufacturing companies.”
BOEM public information officer Stephen Boutwell said in an email June 15 to the News-Times the bureau is “in the planning stages for potentially issuing additional wind leases offshore (of) North and South Carolina.”
However, as of Monday the only offshore wind energy project underway off the North Carolina coast is Avangrid Renewables’ Kitty Hawk Offshore Wind effort.
“As a fundamental part of the renewable energy leasing process, BOEM coordinates closely with its Renewable Energy Intergovernmental Task Forces,” Mr. Boutwell said. “These group consist of representation from other federal state and local government and federally recognized tribes.”
Offshore wind energy has been a topic of debate in Carteret County in recent years. While some have said development could help reduce reliance on fossil fuels, others have raised concerns about potential effects to coastal tourism, fishing, ship traffic and military operations.
One county official has said offshore wind energy projects could prove helpful to the local economy via the State Port of Morehead City. Carteret County Economic Development Director Don Kirkman suggested at a Morehead City council workshop meeting in May the state port’s Radio Island property could be used as a staging area or fabrication port for offshore wind projects.
More potential offshore wind energy projects are on the horizon on the region, however. Mr. Boutwell said BOEM anticipates holding an auction in the Carolina Long Bay region in 2022, which includes the waters off of Wilmington to the N.C./S.C. border and off a large portion of the South Carolina coast.
“Any potential lease sale would be informed by science and other information collected from the Carolina Long Bay Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, ocean users and key stakeholders,” he said.
A task force meeting will be held this summer, which will focus on the next steps in the leasing process in the region.
According to a national energy lab’s most recent study, considerable wind energy potential is available off North Carolina’s coast. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory did a study in 2016 on offshore sources. NREL offshore wind lead principal engineer Walt Musial said in a June 15 email to the News-Times he expects the lab will publish an update to the study sometime this year.
“The study breaks down the resources by state, depth, windspeed (and) distance from shore,” Mr. Musial said.
According to the 2016 study, North Carolina has the potential to produce more than 600 terawatts of offshore wind energy per year. The majority of this energy potential is in coastal waters less than 196.85 feet deep.
This makes North Carolina the state with the fifth-most offshore wind energy potential, narrowly beat out by Louisiana. However, North Carolina ranked second on the Atlantic coast, behind Massachusetts, for wind speeds consistently above 26.25 feet per second, the cutoff speed for the study. The study goes on to report the state’s wind energy potential is between four to five times its electrical load.
The study concludes the best offshore wind energy resources are off the northeast coast. However, it doesn’t say whether or not North Carolina is among the states that aren’t viable.
“The technology has advanced (since 2016) to allow a wider range of potential sites,” Mr. Musial said, “including floating wind farther from shore…The new resource study could augment the existing potential documented in the 2016 study, but we can’t say at this time.”
E.O. 218 establishes offshore wind development goals for North Carolina at 2.8 gigawatts off the coast by 2030 and 8 gigawatts by 2040. It also directs the N.C. Department of Commerce to name a clean energy economic development coordinator and establish a N.C. Taskforce for Offshore Wind Economic Resource Strategies.
The order goes on to direct the N.C. Department of Environmental quality and N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to designate offshore wind coordinators and “take steps to support offshore wind.” It also directs quarterly meetings of the N.C. Offshore Wind Interagency Workgroup.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.