Offshore wind power clears hurdles, continues progress

More clean, renewable energy from offshore wind turbines like those pictured above is closer to reality in the Southeast thanks to recent approvals. (© iStock)

Offshore wind power, a huge opportunity for clean energy off our Atlantic shores, continues to advance with recent decisions by the federal government and a utility clearing the way for next steps.

In North Carolina, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approved three areas for offshore wind leasing. Officials can now initiate the process of offering these areas for lease to interested offshore wind companies. Two of the leases are for sites south of Wilmington and the third is off of Kitty Hawk.

In Virginia, Dominion Power’s first foray into offshore wind is back on track after an initial bid for a two-turbine test project came back nearly double original estimates. After gathering input from experienced stakeholders—including SELC—this summer, Dominion recently announced that they will re-post bids for the installation off of the coast of Virginia Beach. This time they will seek separate bids for the various aspects of the project, with the expectation of lowering costs. These turbines will help the utility, which holds the state’s only offshore wind power lease, better understand the nuances of construction at sea and test designs intended to withstand hurricanes.

South Carolina is in earlier stages of approval and making important progress. The South Carolina Renewable Energy Task Force, made up of federal, state, and local government representatives, recently identified broad areas—North Myrtle Beach to Georgetown and Cape Romain to Charleston—as potential lease blocks.   BOEM will now research the designated area to determine blocks that are suitable for leasing. Those areas will then go through environmental review and public comment before being offered for lease.

In the Northeast, construction of the nation’s first offshore wind project got underway off the Rhode Island coast in July. This marked an important milestone as the U.S. takes the necessary steps to establish a robust offshore wind industry—a key component to our country’s independent, clean energy future.

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