Updated: Oct 30, 2020
Several states along the eastern seaboard have organized themselves to become leaders in the offshore wind industry. New Jersey, Rhode Island, and most recently Virginia, have all created the infrastructure for offshore wind energy to succeed – developing the manufacturing supply chain, the workforce, and supportive state policies. North Carolina has decided it's time to join the others.
The state provides exceptional offshore wind energy potential; in fact, according to the Department of Energy, North Carolina’s coast has more offshore wind potential than any other state along the Atlantic Coast. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management identified several areas off the coast particularly suited for offshore wind facilities: Kitty Hawk, Wilmington-West, and Wilmington-East. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory map (highlighted in the figure below) shows mean annual wind speeds at 7 meters per second and greater than a 90-m height within 50 miles of the North Carolina coast – numbers that further support North Carolina’s offshore wind development as a good economic investment.
A few statistics highlight the industry’s importance. The American Wind Energy Association found 74 occupations are needed for planning, development, and later operation of offshore wind facilities. North Carolina has 30 companies already producing wind power components such as blades and turbines, but other equipment manufacturers may seek to diversify into the industry. And, finally, clear policies that support the industry provide a signal to developers that there is a project pipeline, giving them confidence in the long-term economic opportunity afforded by offshore wind. The North Carolina Economic Development Partnership recently published a brochure outlining the state’s wind industry, the success of the Amazon Wind Farm in the northeast corner of the state, and the state’s business environment.
In the early part of the summer, North Carolina launched the Offshore Wind Study in part to fulfill the requirements of Executive Order 80, North Carolina’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing clean energy resources. The offshore wind study will identify the upgrades needed at the ports in Wilmington and Morehead City and address the role wind energy is going to play in North Carolina’s energy mix by 2030 and beyond. Avangrid Renewables is currently developing the Kitty Hawk project (one of the three best sites for offshore wind energy in North Carolina) at what is the first offshore wind lease area to be secured off North Carolina for a capacity of 2 GW, but there are more opportunities for offshore wind leases.
North Carolina is now doing what other states have done and determining how to grow the offshore wind supply chain (development, construction, operation, and maintenance) and infrastructure (turbine, generators, foundations, and other component parts), and ensure the appropriate workforce is in place. The study sends the signal that the state is open for business.
Last week, Duke Energy presented its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) to stakeholders and showed a number of portfolios evaluating solar, solar+storage, onshore wind, and offshore wind, in addition to small modular reactors. Duke Energy is evaluating offshore wind as a potential energy resource in the short and long term to support increased renewable portfolio diversity. Their 70 percent CO2 Reduction: High Wind and No New Gas Generation portfolios includes over 2,400 MW of offshore wind which will be imported into the Carolinas.
The offshore study may be completed by the end of the year and will be instrumental in identifying items to bolster North Carolina’s offshore wind resource.
For more information and to discuss the impact of the offshore wind energy industry hitting the North Carolina coast, please contact Diane Cherry directly by clicking here.
 Block Island Wind Farm, developed by Deepwater Wind, is a 30 MW project with five 6-MW turbines off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island that came online in 2016.