In a significant first step toward developing wind energy off the N.C. coast, the federal government yesterday asked for project proposals for three offshore areas, one off the Outer Banks and two near Wilmington.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, part of the U.S. Department of Interior, has identified an area six miles off Kitty Hawk and two areas seven to 13 miles from Cape Fear as having potential for commercial wind energy. The three areas total about 1,400 square miles.
Yesterday’s “Call for Information and Nominations” is meant to gauge the industry’s interest in developing wind projects in the areas. It will be followed with a formal announcement today in the Federal Register along with a request for public comments for the environmental assessment that will be done on wind-energy development in any of the three areas. These are the first steps in the federal planning process that could lead to leasing all or part of the areas to companies that would build the giant wind turbines.
North Carolina is considered to have to strongest and most consistent wind on the East Coast for commercial wind-energy development. Studies have concluded that if it were harnessed to make electricity wind could theoretically supply all of the state’s electricity needs.
“This is good news and an important step in North Carolina’s responsible development of our offshore energy resources which will move our nation closer to energy independence,” Gov. Beverly Perdue said yesterday in a press release. “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.”
Following today’s formal announcement in the Federal Register, the bureau will accept public comments for 45 days about environmental and social issues that should be addressed in the assessment. Comments can be transmitted electronically. Click on the “Open Comment Documents” link and follow the instructions to view relevant materials and submit comments.
Comments can also be mailed to The Office of Renewable Energy Programs, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 381 Elden Street, HM 1328, Herndon, Va., 20170-4817.
The bureau will soon schedule public information meetings to provide additional opportunities to comment. Once scheduled, information about the public information meetings will be found online.
Todd Miller, the executive director of the N.C. Coastal Federation, welcomed yesterday’s announcement. “This is a significant step forward in providing a clean source of energy to power our homes and workplaces,” he said. “Unlike oil and gas, wind energy will not leave tainted fish and beaches as its lasting legacy.
Other East Coast states have already gone through the process, and leasing has moved forward in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Virginia, noted Zak Keith, the offshore wind coordinator for the N.C. Sierra Club. No wind turbines have yet been built in U.S. waters.
“The bottom line is that we are one step closer to developing North Carolina’s tremendous wind resource off our coast,” he said in a press release. “We have a strategic energy reserve right off our coast and we don’t have to risk an oil spill to get to it.”