North Carolina Adds to Offshore Wind Power Momentum

It is so exciting to see the momentum building for American offshore wind power – our golden opportunity to produce wildlife-friendly, clean power right where it is needed and launch a brand new, job-creating industry. Offshore wind power is a very hot topic in America’s energy conversation right now, with these recent articles in Fortune and Bloomberg highlighting the dramatic cost reduction story of this advancing market overseas where decades of investment are paying off sooner than expected.

Today, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) held a successful auction for 122,405 acres of federal waters over 20 miles from the North Carolina coast. This area was determined to be well-suited for offshore wind development after years of stakeholder engagement and leadership across federal, state, and local governments. After 17 rounds of bidding, Avangrid Renewables, LLC acquired the Kitty Hawk lease, becoming one of seven companies that now hold leases along the Atlantic Coast for areas that could power millions of homes and businesses. This action builds on last week’s announcement that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) within DOI is moving additional lease requests forward for areas offshore New York and Massachusetts.

“The success of this lease sale reflects the continued interest of coastal communities to develop their offshore energy resources. Renewable energy, like offshore wind, is one tool in the all of the above energy toolbox that will help power America with domestic energy, securing energy independence, and bolstering the economy. This is a big win for collaborative efforts with state, local, and private sector partners.” – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke

National Wildlife Federation President & CEO Collin O’Mara “applauds Secretary Zinke and the DOI and BOEM teams for a successful auction and congratulates Avangrid on its win. We look forward to working with all parties to ensure strong wildlife protections guide the development of this and all wind projects off our shores.”

What Today’s Auction Really Means

With only 5 turbines, America's first offshore wind power project created over 300 local jobs. Photo by Deepwater Wind

A booming global industry, wildlife-friendly offshore wind power is just getting started in the U.S. Photo by Deepwater Wind

Today’s competition showed that America’s world-class offshore wind resources and emerging market are clearly attracting the attention of the booming global offshore wind industry. Developers are knocking on North Carolina’s door – ready to spark massive job creation and broader economic development opportunities for both coastal and inland communities – but are the state’s leaders listening?

Where states have made commitments to invest in offshore wind power, like New York and Massachusetts, developers are approaching BOEM to request more lease auctions. The robust competition at today’s auction shows that many industry players are trying to secure a foothold in the promising U.S. market. Even without strong policy commitments from North Carolina’s elected officials, companies are clearly quite bullish about the prospects for offshore wind power becoming major source of electricity and economic development in America and are actively competing for the opportunity to make it happen.

Here’s the difference:

  • In Massachusetts, Governor Baker signed into law a requirement for utilities to buy 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2027. That’s enough clean, local energy to power over half a million homes and create thousands of jobs. As regional nuclear and coal-fired power plants are slated for retirement, this marked a conscious decision to make a home-grown, job-creating, pollution-free resource a pillar of the Commonwealth’s energy future.
  • In New York, Governor Cuomo announced the nation’s largest commitment to offshore wind power in his 2017 State of the State address: 2,400 MW or enough to power nearly 800,000 homes. With this directive, New York is now developing a master plan to reach this goal as part of New York’s effort to produce 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
  • In North Carolina, offshore wind power is not currently part of the state’s energy plan, however the state has significant offshore wind resources offshore capable of powering over half a million homes. That four companies competed so intensely for the opportunity to develop offshore wind power for North Carolina indicates growing confidence in America’s ability to launch this new industry.

As Secretary Zinke highlighted, coastal communities are increasingly looking to their offshore wind resources as a promising new source of local, reliable power. NWF’s affiliate, North Carolina Wildlife Federation, welcomed the lease sale.

“North Carolina is moving a step closer to reaping the tremendous environmental and economic benefits of wildlife-friendly offshore wind power. We are thrilled to see this progress, following years of stakeholder engagement, toward harnessing the abundant clean energy potential far off our shores.” — Tim Gestwicki, CEO of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation

What’s Next?

America's first offshore wind turbine, Block Island Wind Farm. (Photo: Deepwater Wind)

America’s first offshore wind turbine, completed in 2016. Block Island Wind Farm. (Photo: Deepwater Wind)

In North Carolina, like all states, offshore wind projects will ultimately only move forward in the leased areas when there is a buyer for the power. While Avangrid now has the opportunity to do survey work and planning in their lease area, they will have to propose a full project Construction and Operations plan to BOEM for approval. And of course, they need to secure a buyer for the power they will generate. Now is the moment for North Carolina and all leaders along the coast to seize this opportunity and commit to having offshore wind power play a major role in their state’s energy future.

As America’s offshore wind story unfolds, state leaders have great opportunities to learn from one another, build on the proven pathways to success, and ensure the creation of a U.S. market that matches the massive scale of the wind resource currently available offshore. While we have much to celebrate now that America’s first offshore wind turbines are finally spinning and key states have made historic market commitments to get things started, we have a long way to go before we are truly harnessing this clean, domestic power at even a fraction of its potential. The more we can share best practices and transfer our successes from one region to another, the better we can ensure that all aspects of the U.S. offshore wind industry are done right from the start – for wildlife, habitat, local communities, and our economy.

Here at NWF, we’re tracking America’s pursuit of offshore wind power very closely – championing progress to advance state power markets and working directly with industry and regulators to ensure strong protections are in place for wildlife every step of the way.  Please join us in speaking up for responsibly developed offshore wind power!

TAKE ACTION! Call on your Governor to advance offshore wind power for your state!

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