Environmental experts say North Carolina could cash in on environmental and economic benefits by investing in offshore wind.
But a new report says the Tar Heel state is lagging far behind its fellow states along the Atlantic coast because of a lack of support from leadership at the state level.
This is according to "Catching the Wind: State Actions Needed to Seize the Golden Opportunity of Atlantic Offshore Wind Power."
The report analyzed and compared the progress of Atlantic Coast states toward offshore wind.
"North Carolina has enough offshore wind potential to power the entire state, more than any other state along the Atlantic Coast," said Dave Rogers, of Environment North Carolina. "Unfortunately, Gov. Pat McCrory and North Carolina's leaders haven't taken the necessary steps to turn that potential into reality. We're falling behind."
State and federal officials have already designated more than 1.5 million acres off the Atlantic Coast waters for offshore wind power development, and more are being considered.
Highlights of Catching the Wind include:
• Areas Already Designated for Offshore Wind Development Could Power Over 5 Million American Homes. This is a massive, local clean power opportunity currently available to state energy planners with the capacity to power the equivalent of all households in New Jersey and South Carolina combined. What's needed now is action by Governor McCrory and state leaders to drive offshore wind markets and spur critical project contracts forward.
• Offshore Wind Power Could Save Millions as Part of a Diverse Energy Portfolio. Diversifying North Carolina's energy mix is critical for protecting ratepayers from price spikes in the volatile fossil fuel markets. The report highlights a new 2014 study finding a $350 million per year reduction in energy costs from adding 1,200 MW of offshore wind energy to New England's grid.
• Offshore Wind Power Will Spark Massive Job Creation. In Europe, 70 offshore wind projects across 10 countries are currently supporting over 58,000 jobs in both coastal and inland communities. Today, offshore wind power is a booming global industry with over $20 billion in annual investments projected for the next 10 years.
• Offshore Wind Power Can Help States Meet New Carbon Pollution Limits. Coastal states have a massive untapped pollution-free energy source sitting right off their shores that can play a major role in meeting the carbon emission reduction targets required by the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Clean Power Plan released last month.
• Offshore Wind Power is an Environmentally Responsible Energy Choice: As decades of experience in Europe indicates, strong environmental requirements can ensure that offshore wind power is sited, constructed, and operated in a manner that protects coastal and marine wildlife. This immense clean energy source offers an incredible opportunity to reduce
The report also outlines five recommendations for state leadership to follow to make offshore wind power a priority for North Carolina:
1. Set a bold goal for offshore wind power in North Carolina's energy plan.
2. Take action to ensure a competitive market for offshore wind power by passing and implementing policies to directly advance offshore wind power and reduce pollution across the electricity sector, pursuing regional market-building opportunities, and supporting key federal incentives.
3. Advance critical contracts for offshore wind projects, including facilitating and approving necessary power purchase contracts and rate recovery proposals and pursuing regional procurement opportunities.
4. Ensure an efficient, environmentally responsible leasing process, working closely with the federal government and key experts and stakeholders to ensure transparency and strong protections for coastal and marine wildlife as offshore wind development moves forward.
5. Invest in key research, initiatives, and infrastructure helpful for advancing offshore wind development including baseline environmental data, stakeholder engagement initiatives, opportunities to maximize local supply chain and job creation, and upgrades to transmission or port facilities.
Opponents of offshore wind energy argue that wind turbines interfere with birds, marine life, military operations, and tourism.
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