Offshore Wind – Organizing for North Carolina’s Potential Economic Development

North Carolina provides exceptional offshore wind energy potential; in fact, according to a 2017 U.S Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Lab report, the state’s coast has more offshore wind potential than any other state along the Atlantic Coast. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has identified several areas off the coast of North Carolina particularly suited for offshore wind facilities: Kitty Hawk, Wilmington-West, and Wilmington-East. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) map shows mean annual wind speeds at 7 meters per second and greater than a 90-m height within 50 miles of the North Carolina coast – numbers that further support North Carolina’s offshore wind development as a good economic investment.

With the kickoff of North Carolina’s Offshore Wind Industry Supply Chain and Infrastructure Assessment last week, the N.C. Department of Commerce is developing a strategy to establish the state as a leader in this sector, similar to what states such as New Jersey, Rhode Island, and most recently, Virginia have done. While it is desirable to have the resource, North Carolina must also create the infrastructure for offshore wind energy to succeed including the manufacturing supply chain, the workforce, and a suite of state policies that will support it.

Based on lessons learned from offshore wind installations within the European Union, the offshore wind industry is expected to create a $70 billion supply chain and tens of thousands new jobs in the United States by 2030,” said John Hardin, Executive Director of N.C. Commerce’s Office of Science, Technology, & Innovation. “The purpose of the study is to determine how North Carolina companies and workers can best position themselves to meet the economic demand this industry will create. In particular, given their proximity to the coast, counties in the eastern portion of the state stand to benefit greatly from supply chain activities related to the offshore wind industry.”

History of Wind in North Carolina

North Carolina has a strong history in developing wind resources. The Amazon Wind Farm in Northeastern North Carolina has been operational for several years, bringing long-term economic benefits to local businesses and communities.  With that successful history in mind, the N.C. Department of Commerce recently announced creation of a team — including members of the N.C Clean Energy Technology Center — to work with a UK-company BVG Associates to develop North Carolina’s offshore wind industry supply chain and infrastructure analysis. Other project partners include N.C. State University’s Economic Development Partnership, which will focus on workforce development, and Timmons Group and Lloyd’s Register, for ports and other transportation infrastructure. The project team’s kickoff meeting was held the second week of August.

A few statistics highlight the immense payoff for doing this right. The American Wind Energy Association (AEEA) in partnership with the Workforce Development Institute found that 74 occupations are needed from planning, development, and later operation of offshore wind facilities. North Carolina has 30 companies already producing wind power components such as blades and turbines but other equipment manufacturers may seek to diversify into the industry. And, finally, clear policies that support the industry provide a signal to developers that there is a project pipeline, giving them confidence in the long-term economic opportunity afforded by offshore wind.

Role of the NC Clean Energy Technology Center in Study

The NCCETC has extensive experience working to develop the wind industry. One example was past participation in the U.S. Department of Energy’s anemometer loan program, under which coastal residents interested in small wind generators could receive assistance to measure their site’s wind resource.  The NCCETC was a member of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s North Carolina Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force that worked to analyze and nominate potential offshore wind lease areas.   Finally, Center staff have spoken at meetings in North Carolina coastal communities about on-shore wind projects, including providing objective information. NCCETC will bring that knowledge to this project as it engages with stakeholders and supports the team to conduct an analysis for what North Carolina’s supply chain opportunity is and what the state must do to capture this potential.

North Carolina launched the Offshore Wind Study in part to fulfill the requirements of Executive Order 80, North Carolina’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing clean energy resources. The study will address the role that wind technology manufacturing can play in North Carolina’s workforce and overall economy as offshore wind plays an increasing piece in North Carolina’s energy mix by 2030 and beyond. Avangrid Renewables is currently developing the Kitty Hawk project (one of the three best sites for offshore wind energy in North Carolina) at what is the first offshore wind lease area to be secured off North Carolina for a capacity of 2 GW but there are more opportunities for offshore development.

North Carolina is taking the lead as other states have done and determining how to grow the offshore wind supply chain (development, construction, operation, and maintenance) and infrastructure (turbine, generators, foundations, and other component parts), and ensure the appropriate workforce is in place.  The NCCETC is excited to be part of this project team and analyze the important incentives, business climate, and other factors which will make this industry successful in the state.  The entire project will be completed at the end of the year and we will be sure to update you as it unfolds.