SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Building Infrastructure for the Southeast to Lead the Nation in Offshore Wind


middelgrunden_wind_farm.jpgThe Southeast leads the nation in offshore wind potential, and North Carolina ranks first among all 50 states. In 2008, the DOE published a report detailing how the United States can meet 20 percent of our electric demand from onshore and offshore wind power. In this report, DOE estimates that North Carolina alone could supply more than 10,000 MW of combined onshore and offshore wind energy by 2030. To help leverage this potential, SACE coordinates with the Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina state energy offices and the DOE to manage the Southeastern Ocean Based Renewable Energy Infrastructure Project (SOBREIP). Over time, it is likely that offshore wind farms in these three states can generate 49 to 60 gigawatts of power! This is enough energy to power entire cities with offshore wind. We know that the power exists, but recognize that the question of how to harness it and bring it to your door remains.

States, utilities and private companies must address myriad issues when planning for large wind projects. For instance, the first step in this long process is determining where wind turbines are most likely to go. In order to facilitate this process, SOBREIP mapped various sites and reviewed selected sites’ meteorological data and wind speed. Those numbers were plugged into a modeling program to calculate whether wind turbines located in those areas could produce significant amounts of energy.Although still in the earliest stages of development, offshore wind has progressed enough for us to recognize broad potential for the Southeast. Offshore wind can help meet peak demand for electricity because it retains a high capacity in the afternoon – just as people come home from work and electricity demand spikes. This means that offshore wind farms can offset the need for additional conventional power during peak demand times, and help our region move away from dirty energy sources and embrace clean, renewable energy solutions.

Wind energy is also bringing jobs to the Southeast. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the burgeoning wind industry has directly or indirectly resulted in 1,200 to 3,000 jobs at 34 manufacturing facilities in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The Southeast has the capacity to lead the nation in offshore wind. The question is: How quickly can the infrastructure be put into place? SACE is confident that offshore wind will be a key part of the Southeast’s energy future, and we will continue to promote infrastructure development so that our region is well prepared to tap the vast potential of this clean, renewable resource. Ultimately, this will lead to cleaner air, cleaner water, and healthier communities that depend on a reliable, safe energy source.