A group of 50 elected officials, small businesses, community groups, and environmental organizations have sent a letter to North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper asking him to embrace offshore wind as a key part of the state's energy plan.
The letter comes in the wake of the passage of House Bill 589, to which a late amendment set an 18 month moratorium on onshore wind power developments.
“Despite the legislature’s baffling onshore wind moratorium, Governor Cooper can continue to drive progress on clean, carbon-free energy by focusing efforts on offshore wind developments,” said Pricey Harrison of District 57. “The hiatus on onshore wind activity should not detract from North Carolina’s tremendous offshore wind potential and the need to jumpstart action on that front.”
The federal government has found that North Carolina has the highest offshore wind power potential of all Atlantic coast states and has identified three areas to lease for the development of offshore wind farms. Simon Mahan of the Southern Wind Energy Association commented on that potential, saying, “With strong energy demand, good wind resources, port access, excellent academic institutions and maritime know-how, the Tar Heel State can usher in a new era of economic development.” In January of this year, Avangrid Renewables won the rights to develop an area of 122,405 acres off the coast of Kitty Hawk. That area alone is capable of providing enough clean power for 500,000 homes.
“North Carolina has immense potential to harness the vast energy from the winds off its shores,” said Connor Rockett, on behalf of Environment North Carolina. “A clear commitment from the Governor to develop and invest in offshore wind power would help transition us from fossil fuels and move North Carolina closer to a future powered entirely by clean, renewable energy.”
After signing into law the bill containing the wind moratorium, Governor Cooper issued Executive Order 11, which expressed support for wind power. While Executive Order 11 was a promising statement about the future of offshore wind power, the letter urges him to go further by backing it up with tangible investments and a specific target for wind energy production.
The letter highlights “the risk that sea level rise and storm surges pose to North Carolina’s thriving coastal economy and ecosystem.” With these coastal communities and landscapes under threat from climate change, the letter cites the importance of rapid adoption of clean energy technologies in reducing greenhouse gases.
“Meaningful progress on this clean, renewable energy source is now more critical than ever as the window of time to combat global climate change narrows,” said David Carr, General Counsel at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “With action stalling at the federal level, it is up to states to take the lead in reducing carbon emissions.”
Despite its unmatched power potential, North Carolina is starting to fall behind other states with respect to offshore wind. Virginia recently took a step forward in its offshore developments when it announced construction plans for two turbines, which should provide builders with experience for more ambitious projects. The Block Island Wind Farm began delivering power to Rhode Island residents in May.
“The development of offshore wind power in North Carolina will fit in with efforts across the nation to reduce fossil fuel usage and ultimately respond to the challenges posed by global climate change” said Rockett. “We cannot afford to delay action.”