Wind Power Set to Take Flight in North Carolina

Guest Blog | April 9, 2015 | Energy Policy, Events, Wind
North Carolina Onshore Wind Energy Resources
This map shows some of the areas with wind resources suited for development with newer, taller turbines. Source: Adapted from NREL's 110 meter hub height wind speed map for areas achieving 35% capacity factors or greater (November, 2014).

This is the sixth post in a blog series discussing state-by-state highlights of wind energy throughout the South in the lead up to the WINDPOWER Expo in Orlando, FL, May 18 – 21. See the rest of the series here.

New wind turbine technology is a game changer for clean energy opportunities in North Carolina. Taller turbines and longer blades are capable of capturing more wind, which results in generating more electricity and reducing costs. In just five years, wind turbines have greatly evolved and are now more suitable for the Southeast. One modern wind turbine can now power the equivalent of about 600 homes a year!

New wind speed maps released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) demonstrate the greatly increased potential for wind turbine development in North Carolina with advanced turbines. As wind turbines increase in height and are able to access better wind speeds, more areas become attractive for wind energy development within North Carolina. The shading on the map above represents new available land for wind development with modern turbines with towers of 360 feet (110 meters) achieving a 35% capacity factor or greater. With these new wind turbines, over 8,200 megawatts (MW) of land-based wind potential currently exist in North Carolina. Developing just one gigawatt of wind energy capacity (1,000 MW) in North Carolina (just 12% of North Carolina’s onshore potential) could power more than 255,500 homes a year!

Based on the Jobs and Economic Development Index model, developed by NREL, developing one gigawatt worth of onshore wind energy capacity in North Carolina could support approximately 4,500 direct, indirect and induced jobs during construction and 166 ongoing operation jobs with a total annual payroll of $8.58 million.

Credit: Outer Banks Brewing Station, Kill Devil Hills, NC
Credit: Outer Banks Brewing Station, Kill Devil Hills, NC

Although North Carolina has yet to develop a wind farm, the state is set to take flight with wind power. In 2011, Iberdrola Renewables proposed a 300 megawatt wind farm in northeastern North Carolina. Similarly in 2011, Invenergy also proposed a 300 megawatt project in northeastern North Carolina, and a separate 80 megawatt project near Pantego. In 2012, another wind project was proposed, but this time in Pamlico County. In 2013, Torch Renewable Energy Incorporated announced a plan to develop a wind farm near Mill Pond.

Meanwhile, North Carolina has some of the best offshore wind energy resources in the country. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management may begin leasing tracts offshore for potential wind farm site assessment and planning as soon as next year.

North Carolina is also currently home to at least 28 wind energy-related manufacturing facilities serving the domestic and international wind industry markets. In 2013, there were up to 1,000 direct and indirect jobs provided by the wind industry in North Carolina. Developing land-based wind in the state could greatly add to local economic benefits and create more wind energy-related jobs. A few of the numerous wind energy-related manufacturing facilities in North Carolina include:

  • ABB Incorporated (Multiple Locations, NC) manufactures transformers, switch gears, power cables and other components for the electric transmission system.
  • American Roller Bearing Company (Hickory, NC) manufactures ball bearings for wind turbines.
  • Nucor Steel (Kings Mountain, NC) manufactures steel, used in wind turbine tower manufacturing.
  • PPG Industries (Lexington and Shelby, NC) manufactures fiberglass, which is then used to manufacture wind turbine blades.

The Southeastern Wind Coalition has published wind energy fact sheets on this state and others from around the Southeast. You can access those fact sheets here.

As the Southeast becomes a new frontier for wind energy, it is only fitting that the largest wind energy conference of the year will be in Orlando, Florida. Join us, May 18-21, 2015 for the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) annual WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition in Orlando. Each year, the event draws thousands of attendees and hundreds of exhibitors all looking to advance the wind industry. WINDPOWER features over 30 sessions ranging from market and policy analysis, to project performance and technical advancements in wind energy. It’s an excellent way to connect with subject matter experts–anyone interested in the wind industry should plan on attending. As a benefit to you for reading our blog, you can use this discount code to receive $50 off the full registration: SPKWP50.

We hope you can join us in Orlando to learn more about wind energy opportunities for North Carolina and the entire Southeast! You can register here.

Credit: American Wind Energy Association


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