Offshore Wind

Areas off the Atlantic Coast designated for offshore wind power development have the potential to produce more than 16,000 MW of clean energy (equivalent to 16 or more fossil fuel power plants).


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Companies bid on North Carolina offshore wind site More »

The U. S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held a competitive wind lease sale for the Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area off the coast of North Carolina today. The Wind Energy Area is over 120,000 acres and is 24 nautical miles from the coast at its closest point. North Carolina has more offshore wind potential than any Atlantic state. The lengthy distance from shore means a future wind power project would likely not be visible from shore.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management initially identified nine interested companies qualified to participate in the auction. The number of interested companies demonstrates the growing interest in offshore wind in the region as well as the country.

Offshore wind farms bring the opportunity for significant economic growth. According to a 2015 Navigant Consulting study, a 720 megawatt wind farm would bring in $436 million in direct investment and an estimated 2,056 jobs. The indirect and induced jobs would be over 7,000 and total investments would be over $1.3 billion.

“State policies need to incentivize the development of this clean, zero-fuel cost energy source,” said David Carr, SELC General Counsel. “State policy should encourage and reward the upfront investment to capture this clean energy.”

Massachusetts and New York have now made the largest commitments to offshore wind in the country at 1,600 megawatts and 2,400 megawatts, respectively.

Countries around the world are already reaping the economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind power. In Europe, this booming industry currently supports 70,000 long-term, high-quality jobs. The first offshore wind farm in the U.S., the Block Island Wind Farm off of Rhode Island, began operations in late 2016 and has created 300 jobs.

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SELC Backs Accelerated Development of Clean Energy Source

A Huge Resource for the Southeast

Persistent pressure to drill for oil in the South Atlantic ignores a much more abundant energy source off the Eastern Seaboard: wind.

The winds off the southeast coast have the raw potential to meet much of our region’s power demands. They can also help our nation meet the twin objectives of reducing carbon pollution and increasing energy independence.
With its expertise in energy law and policy, as well as coast and wetlands protection, SELC is providing the leadership our region needs to tap into this huge resource. If done responsibly and in the right locations, offshore wind power promises to generate not only clean electricity, but also jobs and economic growth for our states.

A Power Source for Economic Growth

SELC is collaborating with state and national partners to champion state and federal policies that support offshore wind development. In 2014, we co-sponsored a report released by the National Wildlife Federation—Catching the Wind: State Actions Needed to Seize the Golden Opportunity of Atlantic Offshore Wind Power—that highlights the enormous potential for harnessing clean energy off the Atlantic Coast. It also highlights the potential for powering economic growth: tapping just a fraction of the wind power available off our Atlantic states could generate some 300,000 new jobs and more than $200 billion in new economic activity.

Fulfilling this potential will require government policies that level the playing field for offshore wind. These include continuation of the federal investment tax credit for offshore wind development, as well as state requirements that power companies meet a significant portion of electricity demand with clean and renewable energy resources—a.k.a. renewable portfolio standards.

First Steps for Virginia and North Carolina

The relatively shallow waters off the Virginia coast offer some of the best wind power sites in the country. With strong encouragement from SELC, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) auctioned a lease in 2013 for nearly 113,000 acres off the Virginia coast for wind energy projects. Located 23.5 nautical miles from land, the area is expected to generate enough electricity to power 700,000 homes.

Dominion Power, Virginia’s primary energy provider, won the lease, but unfortunately is proposing, over the next decade, to develop less than one percent of what’s possible on that swath of ocean. SELC is working not only to increase Dominion’s commitment to offshore wind energy, but also to ensure that prompt development of this clean energy resource is done with responsible environmental review.

On the heels of announcing the landmark lease sale off the Virginia coast, BOEM issued a call for proposals for developing three wind energy areas off North Carolina, totaling 1,441 square miles. Five companies have expressed interest, and North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory, has voiced his support for offshore wind development in his state. To advance this process, SELC submitted extensive information on marine wildlife that will help the agency make wise decisions about potential lease sales in these areas.

Harnessing the winds off Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina will take the nation a step closer to meeting the U.S. Department of Energy’s ambitious goal of bringing 10 gigawatts of offshore wind power online by 2020. That’s roughly the equivalent of a dozen big power plants.

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