Updates on wind energy in North Carolina


On December 12, 2012, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the release of the Call for Information and Nominations for potential offshore wind leasing areas offshore from North Carolina.  The call covers what we have known as areas 1, 2, and 5 – now dubbed Call Area Kitty Hawk, Call Area Wilmington East and Call Area Wilmington West (see map here).  Additionally, the Notice of Intent (NOI) to Prepare an Environmental Assessment covering these areas was released.  The public comment periods for the Call and the Notice of Intent originally closed on January 28th, but are now set to close on March 7th.  This was an important step for offshore wind in North Carolina and the N.C. Solar Center encourages everyone to submit comments to BOEM in support of moving forward with offshore wind in North Carolina – you can do so here for the Call and here for the Notice of Intent.

The Call areas were identified over the last several years through the work of the BOEM North Carolina State Task Force, of which the N.C. Solar Center is a member.  The areas, already vetted by many state, federal and local stakeholders, will continue to be refined based on responses received during the comment period and results of ongoing BOEM working groups.  Comments on the Call were received by BOEM during outreach meetings in Nags Head January 7th and Wilmington January 9th.  The N.C. Solar Center organized state-level speakers at these events to provide background information to the public – all presentations from the meetings are available at the BOEM website.

The responses to the Call will include nominations of interest from offshore wind developers and will provide a better understanding of where exactly we might see projects developed within these Call Areas.  One exciting comment letter already sent to BOEM is from Governor McCrory – stating his support for offshore wind development in the state as part of an “all of the above” energy approach.  The letter acknowledges the economic benefits North Carolina already sees through the onshore wind supply chain and the potential to expand manufacturing jobs in the state through offshore wind.  Governor McCrory’s support is a great signal that North Carolina can effectively move this industry forward in the coming years.

BOEM also held workshops on an offshore wind visual simulation study during the week of January 7th in Kitty Hawk and Wilmington.  The study covers 18 sites along the coast with views of a 200 turbine wind project (2 scenarios – Vestas V164 7.0 MW and Siemens ST-3.6-107 turbines with 1000 meter spacing) at 10, 15 and 20 nautical miles offshore.  Each site and scenario are shown under four different conditions – early morning, late afternoon, starlit night and foggy night. Time lapse videos are also available for a subset of the sites and scenarios.

A critical piece of this study is the meteorological report, which provides data on the average visibility for certain distances offshore in North Carolina, as well as specific data for visibility at each visualization site.  Overall, the report found that daytime visibility to 10 nm occurs at least 50 percent of the day, 34.8 percent of the time (127 days per year) and this drops to 27.3 percent of days during the summer.  It is important to reference the site specific data from the meteorological report when viewing the visualizations and assessing the visual impact of potential projects.

For those that missed the meetings, the simulations can be found online.  However, since the only way to properly view the large panoramas is in person (with the pictures curved to a specific angle and at a specific distance) – the Solar Center is working with BOEM to find a way to make these panoramas available at the coast for more stakeholders to view.  The Center will provide additional updates in the coming months as the BOEM process continues to move forward in the state.