Wrightsville Beach, NC – As the clock ticks down for Congress to extend critical tax credits for wind power, a new report shows that North Carolina is falling behind in the race for offshore wind.
North Carolina has more offshore wind energy resources than any other Atlantic Coast state, but the National Wildlife Federation report, “The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy,” shows that North Carolina is lagging behind in taking key steps to promote the clean, homegrown energy resource.
“In the race up and down the Atlantic to have the first offshore wind project, North Carolina is falling behind,” said Dave Rogers, Environment North Carolina Field Director. “We can catch up, but we need to pick up the pace. The first step is for Congress to extend the offshore wind tax credit before it expires at the end of the year.”
North Carolina’s strong, consistent winds and relatively shallow waters provide ideal conditions for wind farms. A 2009 study from UNC Chapel Hill found that tapping all of the state’s wind potential could provide 130% of the state’s energy needs.
With a renewable energy standard and several commissions established to assess North Carolina’s wind potential, state leaders were strong out of the gates when it came to offshore wind.
But since 2010, of the nine steps towards offshore wind power development outlined in the report, only the first has been taken for North Carolina: identifying five areas of interest for wind power development. Those areas of interest include federal waters off the coasts of Southport, Sunset Beach, Cape Lookout, Cape Hatteras, and the northern Outer Banks.
“There’s no question that offshore wind potential in North Carolina and along the Atlantic coast is great. The question is when will our officials recognize that we need to harvest that potential?” said Tim Gestwicki, Executive Director of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. “The time is now for leadership on clean energy.”
Wind power advocates point to its environmental and economic benefits. They cite research showing that five GW of offshore wind power—the equivalent of about seven medium-sized coal-fired power plants—would avoid as much carbon pollution as taking roughly 1.6 million cars off the road and displace other harmful emissions.
"Our coast provides habitat that supports a robust fishing, tourist, and seafood economy," said Richard Mode, Sportsman Outreach Coordinator based in North Carolina for the National Wildlife Federation. "Properly sited offshore wind farms are a heck of lot better for our marine wildlife than oil spills, mercury contamination from power plants, or the extreme weather and ocean acidification that comes with climate change."
Onshore wind power already supports 75,000 jobs nationally, and offshore wind power could be a particular boon for North Carolina’s economy. Developing a fraction of the state’s potential could generate $22 billion in new economic activity while creating more than 10,000 permanent jobs, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
The broad base of support for offshore wind was demonstrated in late July when more than 200 environmental organizations, businesses, and local and state officials from up and down the Atlantic, including more than 40 from North Carolina, wrote a letter to federal officials calling for bold action to accelerate the development of offshore wind.
Environment North Carolina, the National Wildlife Federation, and other partners called on state and federal officials to ensure the swift, environmentally sound ramp-up of offshore wind in the Atlantic, starting with extending the federal offshore wind investment tax credit before it expires at the end of the year.
“We have incredible potential in North Carolina to generate pollution-free energy from offshore wind,” said Rogers. “We look forward to seeing the first wind farms spinning off our shores within the next few years.”