From Scott Carlberg

Offshore wind energy is getting a closer examination in North Carolina. Not so much about making electricity, but all the elements that create the industry. The Governor of North Carolina supports a $300,000 study will look at offshore wind energy’s potential economic impact, such as making the parts, providing services and what ports could be used. The study was reported in Energy News Network.

Wind map of NC at 80 meters high. See website for bigger image.

Results of the study could help North Carolina tap into the industry. A factor to weigh is that other states have already made wind power analyses, and are earlier movers in the business. For instance, Virginia has an Offshore Wind Team. “A timely supply chain entry will equip Virginia with the skills and infrastructure required to participate in a growing pipeline along the East Coast, future activity such as 2 GW off the coast of North Carolina and potential wind energy lease areas beyond those currently established.” (Source)

The topic is not without debate. There is NC Senate bill S377.  It has restrictions on wind energy expansion offshore. As we write this the bill is back with Senate Rules.

Environment Florida said to “Go Big” on wind, “Developing the wind areas already approved off the Atlantic Coast could power 6 million homes. But, unlocking more of offshore wind power’s potential depends in large part on America’s Atlantic Seaboard states and their governors.”

Wind map of NC at 80 meters high. See website for bigger image.

No matter the state that is analyzing the possibilities in wind, the definition of success for each is to add sustainable employment (with good pay), diversify the economic base and add useful educational or intellectual capital to support the state. It is constructive economic development analysis.

So other states are promoting the idea. But, it is a sizable industry. Global Wind Turbine Supply Chain Valued At $540 Billion Over Next Decade, was one headline last month.

“The Answer Is…” yeah, you know

Wind is a growing electric generation resource since it is carbon-free. And free except for parts, siting, operations, maintenance and taxes. ECC understands, fuel is typically a major part of electricity costs. Not the case with wind. Still there are costs of various kinds as with any energy source.

The Southeast is a good place to tap wind resources, says the Southeast Wind Coalition. “According to the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia have 82% of the East Coast resource in shallow water and more than 12 miles offshore and 45% of the total East Coast offshore wind resource. … There are some distinct resource quality advantages in the Southeast. For example, the proximity of the warm water Gulf Stream to the coast, especially off of North Carolina, creates a highly energetic microclimate with higher wind speeds.”

The Coalition says that an extended shallow offshore shelf helps: “Finally, since the continental shelf in the Southeast is much more gently sloped, it is possible to get further offshore and still stay in shallow water when compared to regions to the north, which significantly improves the resource quality at a given water depth.”

Wind is ready for “lift-off” according to energy news source Axios. It notes, “What’s happeningA huge energy conference here in the nation’s oil-and-gas capital offers a window into what’s prompting giant energy companies to plan multibillion dollar investments. It’s a story of…

  • Atlantic Coast states moving ahead with zero-emissions power procurement policies.
  • Oil-and-gas majors expanding their low-carbon power portfolios.
  • Technology evolution and falling costs.”

Local Expertise

In the Carolinas we have the energy expertise to tap into wind. Recently Recharge News, an energy magazine, listed to the top wind projects in the nation. Duke Energy was named in two of the top ten spots:

Duke Energy Los Vientos wind facility (Image from Duke Energy Media Gallery)

#2 – 912MW Los Vientos (Texas)

Owned by Duke Energy. Duke’s Los Vientos complex was something of a marathon – spanning five phases and more than 400 turbines installed between 2012 and 2016. While it’s yet another monster project in the Lone Star State, it’s unique on this list in being located far from the west Texas market.

Instead, it’s part of a more recent development push that has targeted southern Texas, a region that benefits from winds whipping in off the Gulf during peak hours for electricity demand – in contrast to west Texas, where much of the wind generation comes at night. The project uses a mixture of Vestas, Siemens and Mitsubishi turbines.

#10 – 593MW Sweetwater (Texas)

Owned by Duke Energy and Leeward Renewable Energy. Sweetwater is an important piece of history for the market. As the oldest project on this list, Sweetwater’s first 37.5MW phase was completed in 2003 – just as the US market was really starting to stretch its legs.

It was expanded aggressively over the next few years using a mix of GE, Siemens and Mitsubishi machines. Sweetwater helped pave the way for a wind boom in this part of central Texas between Midland and Abilene – a boom that still reverberates in the market today. Utility Duke Energy acquired a stake in 2008 when it bought developer Catamount Energy, as part of an aggressive push into the wind business.

  ***

The wind power business is attracting company names far beyond electric utilities, even though the familiar Duke Energy brand growing its wind business. Shell won an offshore Massachusetts bid — after all, oil companies know about shallow and deep sea work. Then there are partnerships and entrepreneurs getting into the business.

There’s no lack of choices or possible combinations in what is a big energy possibility. We’ll see what North Carolina’s study recommends as a path forward.