Saturday, June 25, 2022

Two offshore wind leases awarded off Brunswick County coast

Wind turbines with enough energy to power 500,000 homes could be active by 2030 off the coast of Brunswick County. (Port City Daily/file)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Offshore wind turbines will officially be installed off the Brunswick County coast, following the auctioning of two areas for offshore wind. Winning bids from two companies totaled $315 million, following the Bureau of Ocean Management’s sale Wednesday.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s lease sale auctioned 110,091 acres in Carolina Long Bay. They are located approximately 20 miles off the coast of Bald Head Island. The resulting impact could lead to 1.3 gigawatts of offshore wind, enough to power approximately 500,000 homes.

“It’s a significant milestone in offshore wind for the Carolinas,” Southeastern Wind Coalition president Katharine Kollins said Thursday in a WilmingtonBiz Talk. “This is something that’s been in the works for a very long time. The areas off Wilmington have been under review and development for over eight years.”

According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, North Carolina has the second-highest offshore wind energy potential

In the last four years, Gov. Roy Cooper has made a commitment to address climate change by transitioning to a cleaner economy and launched a clean energy plan in 2019. He also initiated an offshore wind taskforce to develop offshore wind resources, generate regional partnerships, and identify gaps in the state’s infrastructure for supporting the renewable energy source. 

The winning companies include TotalEnergies Renewables USA (oil and gas company based out of France) for $160 million and Duke Energy Renewables Wind for $155 million. Duke Energy will likely be the provider of the energy to customers, once the turbines are established, Kollins explained.

Prior to BOEM’s auction, 16 companies were pre-qualified to bid on the two lease areas. The auction marks the state’s third leased offshore wind area, with Kitty Hawk sold to Avangrid Renewables in 2017 for $9 million. The company bought 122,405 acres off the northeastern coast of North Carolina.

The milestone is a major step toward the state’s goal of reaching 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2023. Gov. Roy Cooper is aiming to achieve 8 gigawatts by 2040. President Joe Biden’s administration laid the groundwork with a national goal of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. That’s the equivalent of powering 10 million homes.

A recent analysis reported by the Southeastern Wind Coalition indicates the gigawatts generated from Wilmington East could result in an economic benefit of up to $4.6 billion for North Carolina’s economy.

With 8,000 components making up a wind turbine, there is opportunity for the region to recruit manufacturers in the supply chain, as well as strengthen job creation. According to a Southeastern Wind Coalition press release, offshore wind is projected to create more than $109 billion in economic output, with roughly $90 billion focused on the manufacturing supply chain.

“It’s an opportunity not only for the state but the entire region as we create a more certain pipeline of projects and continue to see companies looking at North Carolina and the region as a place to set up shop,” Kollins told WilmingtonBiz.

The two leases will be finalized in coming months, with a goal of July 1 due to former President Donald Trump’s 10-year moratorium on offshore wind leasing, enacted in 2020. The moratorium is set to go into effect July 1.

Kollins explained in her WilmingtonBiz interview the moratorium is the same reason pressure has mounted over the last year to speed up the process. With the moratorium, the state would not have been able to take advantage of the offshore wind industry until it was reversed.

The two companies will endure a few years of permitting and are responsible for leading studies on the environmental impacts wind turbines could have on ocean life. It will likely be closer to 2030 before the area benefits from the offshore wind generated power.

Locally, some coastal communities and even Brunswick County commissioners have voiced strong opposition to the turbines, citing them being as an eyesore. Several feared it would be a detriment to the tourism industry.

According to previous Port City Daily reporting, Bald Head Island, Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach passed resolutions against installing wind turbines off the coast of Brunswick County.

As stated in the Bald Head resolution: “Such a change would represent for us the most destructive commitment of ocean resources that we have ever heard proposed in North Carolina — one that could irreversibly damage the natural environment and resources that we cherish and that drive our economy.”


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