Offshore Wind Energy Within Reach for North Carolina

Leadership From North Carolina Officials Could Cut Pollution, Benefit Ratepayers, and Create Jobs

Environment North Carolina

Wilmington, NC – North Carolina could reap tremendous environmental and economic benefits from offshore wind, according to a new report from Environment North Carolina and the National Wildlife Federation. Catching the Wind: State Actions Needed to Seize the Golden Opportunity of Atlantic Offshore Wind Power. The report analyzes and compares the actions by Atlantic Coast states toward progress on offshore wind.  

Despite having more offshore wind potential than any Atlantic state, North Carolina ranks in the bottom tier on its commitment to making offshore wind a reality, not only behind national leaders like Rhode Island and Massachusetts, but also behind neighboring states Virginia and South Carolina.  

The report cites lagging state leadership as a principle reason. Other than passing a renewable energy standard in 2007, North Carolina hasn’t taken any significant steps to encourage offshore wind development.

“The Atlantic Ocean is a clean energy and job-producing goldmine,” said Catherine Bowes, senior manager for climate and energy at the National Wildlife Federation. “With areas offshore that can power 5 million homes currently available for leasing, it is a critical moment for state leaders to seize this golden opportunity and create a clean energy future powered by American workers that can protect our wildlife and communities from the dangers of climate change.”

State and federal officials have already designated more than 1.5 million acres off the Atlantic Coast waters for offshore wind power development, and more are being considered. These areas could produce more than 16,000 megawatts of virtually pollution-free electricity – as much as 16 fossil-fuel burning power plants—making offshore wind an attractive option for states developing plans to shift to clean energy to achieve the targets in Clean Power Plan, recently proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

 “North Carolina has enough offshore wind potential to power the entire state,” said Dave Rogers, of Environment North Carolina. “Unfortunately, Gov. Pat McCrory and North Carolina’s leaders haven’t taken the necessary steps to turn that potential into reality. Without further action from the Governor, we run the risk of being left behind.” 

“The thought of clean electric power generated by the wind is not futuristic,” said Wilmington City Council Member Kevin O’Grady. “It is technology already in use in many countries to supplement other traditional sources of power. In the US, we have lagged behind in deploying wind power. Today’s report focuses on the current efforts to bring this source of power, and its attendant jobs, to the east coast.”

Highlights of Catching the Wind include:

  • Areas Already Designated for Offshore Wind Development Could Power Over 5 Million American Homes. This is a massive, local clean power opportunity currently available to state energy planners with the capacity to power the equivalent of all households in New Jersey and South Carolina combined. What’s needed now is action by Governor McCrory and state leaders to drive offshore wind markets and spur critical project contracts forward.
  • Offshore Wind Power Could Save Millions as Part of a Diverse Energy Portfolio. Diversifying North Carolina’s energy mix is critical for protecting ratepayers from price spikes in the volatile fossil fuel markets. The report highlights a new 2014 study finding a $350 million per year reduction in energy costs from adding 1,200 MW of offshore wind energy to New England’s grid.
  • Offshore Wind Power Will Spark Massive Job Creation. In Europe, 70 offshore wind projects across 10 countries are currently supporting over 58,000 jobs in both coastal and inland communities. Today, offshore wind power is a booming global industry with over $20 billion in annual investments projected for the next 10 years.
  • Offshore Wind Power Can Help States Meet New Carbon Pollution Limits. Coastal states have a massive untapped pollution-free energy source sitting right off their shores that can play a major role in meeting the carbon emission reduction targets required by the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan released last month.
  • Offshore Wind Power is an Environmentally Responsible Energy Choice: As decades of experience in Europe indicates, strong environmental requirements can ensure that offshore wind power is sited, constructed, and operated in a manner that protects coastal and marine wildlife. This immense clean energy source offers an incredible opportunity to reduce carbon pollution?

Thanks to the leadership of the federal government, certain state leaders, resolute wind industry pioneers, and engaged stakeholders, this transformational clean energy source is finally within reach nationally. Catching the Wind highlights key progress made to date along the coast, and identifies the critical actions state leaders must take to build on this foundation and bring a game-changing clean energy solution online.

“North Carolina is well-positioned to secure clean, domestic energy from its vast offshore wind resource”, said David Carr, general counsel of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “However, in order to capture the jobs and clean energy benefits afforded by offshore wind in the near term, state leaders will have to prioritize and implement policies that enable offshore wind development.  The offshore wind play will also help the state address the growing threat of sea-level rise by reducing the reliance on dirty energy sources that contribute to climate change.“

Wildlife advocates also highlighted how offshore wind can benefit the state’s hunting and fishing community.

“We need to quickly ramp up clean sources of energy like responsibly developed and sited offshore wind power in order to protect North Carolina’s wildlife from the dangers of climate change,” said Tim Gestwicki CEO of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. ‘”We need our elected officials to demonstrate the resolve to harness this clean energy opportunity for mountain trout fishermen, coastal duck hunters, and piedmont bass anglers.”

In five recommendations, the report challenges North Carolina’s leaders to move forward with the following key actions to launch transformational offshore wind power:

  1. Set a bold goal for offshore wind power in North Carolina’s energy plan.
  2. Take action to ensure a competitive market for offshore wind power by passing and implementing policies to directly advance offshore wind power and reduce pollution across the electricity sector, pursuing regional market-building opportunities, and supporting key federal incentives.
  3. Advance critical contracts for offshore wind projects, including facilitating and approving necessary power purchase contracts and rate recovery proposals and pursuing regional procurement opportunities.
  4. Ensure an efficient, environmentally responsible leasing process, working closely with the federal government and key experts and stakeholders to ensure transparency and strong protections for coastal and marine wildlife as offshore wind development moves forward.
  5. Invest in key research, initiatives, and infrastructure helpful for advancing offshore wind development including baseline environmental data, stakeholder engagement initiatives, opportunities to maximize local supply chain and job creation, and upgrades to transmission or port facilities.