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Report Shows Offshore Wind Has Potential to Exceed North Carolina’s Energy Needs

For Immediate Release

Raleigh (March 28, 2018) -- Offshore wind power could be the source of North Carolina’s clean energy future. Winds blowing off the North Carolina coast could provide 4.7 times the electricity each year than the state currently uses, according to a report released today by the Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center, and the Frontier Group. Even if North Carolina converted all activities currently powered by gasoline, natural gas, and other fossil fuels (like transportation and home heating) to electricity, the energy provided by offshore wind turbines could still produce 3 times as much power as we would use.

Today’s press conference occurred at the North Carolina History Museum beneath replicas of the Wright Brothers’ 1903 Wright Flyer and 1911 Wright Glider. Representatives were present from the Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center, the Southeastern Wind Coalition, the 100% Renewable Energy Campuses Campaign, and theClimate Reality Project Campus Corps at NC State.

“We’re facing rising sea levels, intensifying storms, and public health threats because we’ve relied on dirty energy sources for far too long,” said Drew Ball, of Environment North Carolina.  “But sitting right here next to us off the Atlantic Coast is a massive source of clean power. The Wright Brother’s harnessed the power of North Carolina’s wind to propel a new era of technological advancement – we now have that opportunity again today.”

While offshore wind is a proven technology overseas, it has been slow to take off in the United States. To date, only one wind farm is operating in the U.S., off the coast of Rhode Island. Meanwhile, Europe hosts 4,100 offshore wind turbines that supply enough electricity to power more than 20 million homes each day. But more American offshore wind is on the horizon. Advances in technology, declining costs, and growing concern about the environmental impacts of energy use have led a number of states to adopt policies that advance this abundant clean energy resource.

 “The benefits of offshore wind are clear,” said Adam Forrer, Atlantic Region Manager for the Southeastern Wind Coalition. “Offshore wind is a clean, reliable source of energy that has the potential to provide thousands of jobs and invest millions of dollars into local communities during construction. In addition, the demand could help recruit a major component manufacturer to the state, which would result in exponentially more economic growth.

 Advances in technology and declining costs, coupled with growing concern about the environmental impacts of fossil fuels, has contributed to the recent momentum.

●      The turbines at the nation’s first offshore wind project in Rhode Island produce 30 times more electricity each year than the first offshore wind turbines installed in Denmark in the early 1990s.  

●      According to the asset management firm Lazard, the overall cost of new offshore wind has declined by 25% in the last 5 years. Estimates by Bloomberg New Energy Finance predict the cost will decline by an additional 71 percent by 2040. [1]

Energy from offshore wind presents a special opportunity for Atlantic states. The Atlantic Coast, with its shallow waters and millions of people living close to shore, is especially well-suited for wind power. Because there are no fuel costs, offshore wind power pays for itself in the long term. However, a strong commitment from state policy-makers is critical because adopting this clean energy source will require significant upfront investment in manufacturing, erecting the wind turbines, and laying transmission lines. Recognizing this, governors and other state officials in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Connecticut have established ambitious but feasible targets. If these cumulative targets are met, offshore wind will provide enough electricity to power 3 million homes.

“Young people are stepping up and speaking out because we will be inheriting this energy grid,” said Megan Pendell, a Campus Organizer for the 100% Renewable Energy Campuses Campaign at NC State. “We don't want to be reliant on an energy infrastructure that makes our communities sick, requires the destruction of our natural resources, and exacerbates climate change. We want a future powered by clean, renewable energy and this report shows that a clean energy future is possible, right now.”

Currently, the only existing land parcel for offshore wind energy development off the North Carolina coast is owned by Avangrid Renewables, which also operates nearly 60 inland wind farms in the United States, including the Amazon Wind Farm in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties. 

A representative from Avangrid stated, “this report provides clear affirmation of why Avangrid Renewables is so bullish on the North Carolina/Virginia region’s offshore potential for providing clean renewable power from its abundant natural resource. Offshore wind technology is helping drive falling costs as the industry advances and matures to the great benefit of potential customers. But the potential economic and social benefits for the region are quite real, if the supply chain emerges to catalyze its growth potential.  We will continue to work hard and engage with all relevant stakeholders and communities to ensure that this opportunity is secured.”  

"Atlantic coastal states use more than a quarter of the nation’s energy,” said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, report co-author. "Offshore wind is the ideal resource for these states -- it’s clean, it’s renewable, and it’s conveniently located near our biggest cities.” 

“We’re beginning to see signs of a race to the top on offshore wind, as states adopt increasingly bigger targets,” said Ball. “We need Governor Cooper and other state leaders to make a commitment to offshore wind power so that North Carolina can seize this opportunity and not fall behind.