It’s the first step towards seeing wind turbines off the coast of North Carolina. Today, one of three available offshore wind energy leases will be offered at auction.
The Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area lies east of Currituck Sound about 24 nautical miles from the shore at its closest point. Chris Carnevale, coastal climate and energy manager at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said it’s just the beginning.
“North Carolina has the biggest offshore wind resource in the nation, and so this is one step toward harnessing that potential,” Carnevale said.
The lease is offered by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The company with the winning bid for the lease will then explore the area to assess the suitability for an offshore wind farm. After the viability studies are completed, the leaseholder will have to apply for permits and go through public and environmental reviews.
Opponents of offshore wind have said it will obstruct coastal views.
The Department of Energy estimates offshore wind manufacturing could create between 10,000 and 20,000 new jobs and meet 20 percent of the state’s energy needs. Carnevale said the potential contributions don’t stop there.
“There’s also a lot of environmental benefits. It’s clean, emissions-free, it does not use any water to generate power with wind, like traditional power plants do,” he said. “So there’s economic benefits and large environmental benefits.”
The country’s first offshore wind farm is online off the coast of Block Island, R.I. The offshore wind leases are being offered after the Obama administration cleared the way for the auctions just prior to the end of his term in January.
Wind power already plays a large role in the European Union, with officials estimating it will provide as much as 17 percent of electricity by 2020.
More information on the development of an offshore wind farm in North Carolina is available here.