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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Fact-checking DOE Secretary Rick Perry’s renewable energy inquiry More »

At the request of Secretary Rick Perry, the Department of Energy is slated to release an analysis this month looking at the reliability of the nation’s electricity grid. But, rather than acknowledging changing market forces, the role of clean energy in strengthening the grid, and the growth of the clean energy economy, Perry’s inquiry appears to be framed to lay the groundwork for attacks on clean energy to appease fossil fuel special interests.

Last week, SELC sent a letter, along with 20 groups throughout the South, urging Perry to do a full and fair review of renewable energy and grid reliability. SELC also created a fact sheet to provide a real sense of the robust clean energy economy in the South.

As outlined in a memo directing his Chief of Staff Brian McCormack to conduct the 60-day inquiry, Perry’s premise is that regulatory burdens on “baseload” power resources (coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric), and federal subsidies for renewables are creating problems for maintaining the reliability of the grid.

This stands in stark contrast to Perry’s view of renewable energy as a smart investment during his tenure as governor of Texas. Under his leadership, Texas led the way in renewable energy, producing more wind energy than the next three states combined, and Georgetown, Texas has recently become one of the first cities in the country to be entirely powered by solar and wind energy – a decision that has brought the city millions of dollars in new investments.

Another concern regarding the objectivity of the analysis: The DOE staffers charged with conducting it have a track record of bias against clean energy.

DOE Chief of Staff McCormack most recently worked at Edison Electric Institute (EEI), where he coordinated efforts to impose fees and roll back compensation for rooftop solar owners. Travis Fisher, a political appointee at DOE, previously worked for the Koch Brothers-funded Institute for Energy Research and American Energy Alliance where he made comments lamenting tax credits for wind and solar. Daniel Simmons, tapped to lead DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has falsely claimed that higher levels of wind and solar power raise domestic prices.

In fact:

  • RENEWABLES STRENGTHEN OUR ECONOMY: Across the Southeast, solar jobs are growing – with over 20,000 jobs in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Alabama.
  • RENEWABLES STRENGTHEN NATIONAL SECURITY: The U.S. military plans for 25 percent of the military’s energy production to come from renewables by 2025 and bases in Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina have all gone solar due to energy independence and security concerns.
  • RENEWABLE ENERGY HAS BIPARTISAN SUPPORT: Republican state officials have long championed their states’ clean energy investments, including former South Carolina governor and current United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s praise of a landmark 2015 bill that opened up South Carolina to more solar power.
  • RESEARCH SHOWS THE U.S. HAS MUCH MORE CAPACITY FOR RENEWABLES: A two-year analysis from the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) found renewable energy can reliably meet up to 80 percent of U.S. electric demand in 2050 with modest improvements to the flexibility of the grid.

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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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