Obama Administration Advances North Carolina Offshore Wind Energy Areas

Guest Blog | December 12, 2012 | Energy Policy, Wind
Offshore wind can help repower the Southeast.

“The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy applauds the Obama Administration for extensive work to promote offshore wind energy development off North Carolina’s coast. Including North Carolina in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Smart from the Start program more than doubles the area for wind energy development along the Atlantic coast. We look forward to commenting on a draft environmental assessment for North Carolina’s offshore wind energy areas.” – Stephen Smith, DVM, Executive Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

The Obama Administration announced today a major milestone in advancing offshore wind in North Carolina. Tommy Beaudreau, Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), announced that BOEM will issue a Call for Information and Nominations for commercial offshore wind development in three wind energy areas off North Carolina. Those three areas, which were developed in close coordination between BOEM and the North Carolina Renewable Energy Task Force, represent approximately 1,441 square miles of area potentially available for offshore wind development. With this BOEM announcement, North Carolina effectively more than doubles the amount of area potentially available for offshore wind development in the United States.

By conservative estimates, this amount of area offshore could support at least 24,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy capacity. That amount of offshore wind potential could generate two-thirds of the electricity North Carolina consumes in a year. And that’s only part of the story.

(see bottom for calculations)

The North Carolina Renewable Energy Task Force identified five priority areas off the coast for BOEM to evaluate for expedited review for offshore wind development. BOEM’s announcement represents three of those five sites. A study managed by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy that was published in 2010 suggests there may be approximately 3,400 square miles of developable area off North Carolina’s coast – more than twice as much as being evaluated under BOEM’s announcement. Once all is said and done, North Carolina is likely to have the most area available out of any state in the country for offshore wind development.

The Call for Information will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, December 13, 2012, as will a Notice of Intent to develop an Environmental Assessment (EA) for North Carolina’s wind energy areas (NOI sneak peek here). This is a similar process followed for the Mid-Atlantic wind energy areas covering Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey that BOEM announced earlier this year. The Call for Information for North Carolina is nearly twice as big as the combined area provided in the Mid-Atlantic wind energy areas (New Jersey, 418 square miles; Delaware, 122 square miles; Maryland, 94 square miles; Virginia, 164 square miles; about 800 square miles total). North Carolina’s area is about three times bigger than the combined wind energy areas for Rhode Island and Massachusetts (about 430 square miles).

BOEM will accept public comments on the North Carolina wind energy area 45 days after publication in the Federal Register (around January 25, 2013). If you’d like to comment on the wind energy area for North Carolina, you can direct your comments to BOEM online. There will also be public forums, the dates of which will be made available here.

 (Calculations; 1,441 square nautical miles * 3.43 (sq kilometers/sq nautical miles) = 4,942 square kilometers * 5 megawatts per square kilometer carrying capacity = 24,713 megawatts offshore wind capacity potential * 0.40 average capacity factor x 8,760 hrs per yr = 86,594,352 annual megawatt hours generation potential / 128,678,483 megawatt hours North Carolina total annual demand = 67% NC’s total demand)

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