NC closer to producing offshore wind energy

Posted December 12, 2012 2:41 p.m. EST
Updated December 12, 2012 3:32 p.m. EST

— The U.S. Department of the Interior has designated sites off Cape Fear and the northern Outer Banks for development of offshore wind energy, Gov. Beverly Perdue said Wednesday.

“The development of offshore wind energy diversifies the state’s energy sector, creates much needed jobs in our coastal communities and positions our state for a 21st century economy," Perdue said in a statement. "Today’s announcement sends a clear message that our state is open for business, and we will lead the Southeast in the development of the nation’s clean-energy economy.”

A formal "call for information and nominations" is being published in the Federal Register. The notice invites interested parties to seek one or more commercial leases to build and operate an offshore wind farm.

Other states have already gone through this step, and recently the Department of Interior has moved forward with lease options in Virginia, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. No turbines have been placed in the water anywhere off the coast yet.

North Carolina has the best offshore wind resources on the East Coast according to studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“Jobs in the wind industry are already coming to North Carolina, but we are exporting our manufacturing products to states like Texas and Iowa," Zak Keith, offshore wind organizer for the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. "It’s time we start building our own future. We have a strategic energy reserve right off our coast, and we don’t have to risk an oil spill to get to it.”

The Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management also is seeking public input for determining significant issues and alternatives to be analyzed in any environmental assessment done on proposed wind projects.

Public comments will be accepted for 45 days, and the bureau plans to schedule information meetings to accept comments, officials said.