Think about the ocean and energy. First thing that likely comes to mind is an offshore oil rig. Drilling on the continental shelf or in the sea has been around for decades, and debated in the Carolinas.
Think again. Go beyond petroleum. Maybe oil or gas is not the only energy offshore. The ocean can be a windy place, too, and wind can make electricity. The wind energy industry can make money for the Carolinas, too, but in ways you may not think about. Let’s check on it.
This story caught our eye. Shell Oil is stepping up its efforts in offshore wind energy. How can wind energy tie to an oil company?
Energy skills like offshore drilling and oil production can be transferable to uses like placing turbines in the ocean to make electricity. The oil company knows the offshore environment already. No real learning curve.
Shell is already doing work in the floating wind unit space, with a trial off the coast of Norway set to be developed in 2020. (Source) Just after the turn to 2020 a story about offshore Portugal power generation ran in Bloomberg News.
So, oil companies have already conquered many technical challenges of offshore wind. One is platform size, for instance. Petroleum companies know how to get a rig to a site, anchor it, and make it operate.
For the Carolinas, here’s a thought. “Over the coming decade, the offshore wind industry (both fixed and floating) is expected to invest over $30 billion a year. This could represent an additional $1 trillion for the ocean asset base over the next 25 years, which will lead to new jobs and investments in local ports, shipyards and other ocean infrastructure in coastal communities around the world.” (Source)
One logical question is whether the Carolinas want wind turbines offshore, and where that power would have to be brought onshore with a cable. That is the basic decision.
Think about this, though. The other (better) question: Should the Carolinas just try to tap into the electricity these units produce, or should it try to use its various existing energy and engineering skills to capture some of that trillion dollars through research, services or manufacturing parts? Anywhere. In other words, don’t just think about offshore production, but think about selling our talent and manufacturing capabilities no matter where the wind may be.
Think big. With so much talk about economic development and its importance, why don’t the Carolinas work together and try and bring some of those dollars onshore here?
Feature image from ELOFI wind energy company website.