Offshore wind power could boost North Carolina’s economy

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In this Monday, August 15, 2016, file photo, three of Deepwater Wind's turbines lie in the water off Block Island, RI A huge wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts is approaching federal approval, setting up what the Biden administration hopes will be a model for a surge in offshore wind energy development along the east coast.  (AP Photo / Michael Dwyer, File)

In this Monday, August 15, 2016, file photo, three of Deepwater Wind’s turbines lie in the water off Block Island, RI A massive wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts is approaching federal approval, setting up what the Biden administration hopes will be a model for a surge in offshore wind energy development along the east coast. (AP Photo / Michael Dwyer, File)

To see the direction of power generation in North Carolina, look at a weather vane. It points to the wind.

Last year, Duke Energy, the state’s largest electric utility, and Dominion Energy of Virginia canceled their efforts to build the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The $ 8 billion natural gas project is said to have tied North Carolina to fossil fuel energy for a generation.

This month a consultant’s report prepared for the North Carolina Department of Commerce said the state was “well positioned” to take a new direction by investing in an offshore wind industry that is expected to boom over the next few decades.

Last week, President Joe Biden proposed a $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan this would provide billions of dollars to develop clean energy, including making $ 3 billion in federal loans available for projects related to offshore wind development.

Politico described Biden’s goal of having offshore wind turbines generate 30 gigawatts of electricity by 2030 as “taking the industry from almost zero today to the size of the entire power sector of New England in a decade ”.

The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland have joined forces to make their states leaders in wind power. In 2020, they announced a wind partnership. He will coordinate the development of the largely untapped energy source off the East Coast as well as the industries that will support it.

What at one point might seem like a marginal, if not fanciful, energy source – offshore wind turbines – has become a central part of national and state plans to move away from fossil fuels. Europe has already installed more than 5,000 offshore wind turbiness in 12 countries.

Drew Ball, state director of the Environment NC advocacy group, said a study by Environment America estimated that North Carolina’s offshore wind resources could provide 465% of the state’s total energy use in 2019. “We could power our state more than four times just with wind,” he said he declared. “The wind is there. We just have to exploit it.

Building offshore wind turbines would help slow climate change and also reduce environmental damage by reducing the dirty process of extracting and transporting fossil fuels. In August alone, a pipeline rupture dumped about 1.2 million gallons of gasoline near Huntersville. Duke Energy customers will pay for years to help clean the utility coal ash pits.

Wind power has its own environmental challenges, but not on the scale of fossil fuels. As Ball noted, “no one has ever heard of a wind turbine spill at sea.”

Economic boost

Beyond its environmental benefits, wind power could also bring strong economic gains not only in construction and maintenance, but also in the manufacture of turbines. The Commerce Department report said North Carolina’s manufacturing sector may develop coastal factories to make wind turbine towers and blades so large they can only be transported by water.

“Wind power means new jobs for the people of North Carolina,” said Machelle Sanders, North Carolina secretary of commerce. “Just as biotechnology was for us many years ago, clean energy today is an industry of the future and North Carolina still embraces the future. “

There are barriers between the vision and reality of North Carolina as a leader in offshore wind energy in the United States. On the one hand, Biden’s massive infrastructure proposal will have to overcome Republican resistance in Congress. Republicans in Congress may find opposing wind energy to have little political support. Polls show popular support even among Republicans.

There are also legitimate concerns about how the construction and operation of the huge offshore turbines could affect the fishing industry, wildlife, military flights and tourism. These concerns should be addressed in consultation with stakeholders.

While not yet a sure thing for North Carolina, wind power is much closer to becoming so. There is no doubt about the direction the pursuit of cleaner energy should take. Go where the wind blows.

BEHIND OUR REPORTING

What is the Editorial Board?

The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer Editorial Boards combined in 2019 to provide our readers with more comprehensive and diverse opinion-oriented content on North Carolina. The Editorial Board operates independently of the Charlotte and Raleigh newsrooms and does not influence the work of the reporting and editorial teams. The combined board of directors is chaired by NC Opinion editor-in-chief Peter St. Onge, who is joined in Raleigh by award-winning News & Observer writer Ned Barnett and in Charlotte by Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Kevin Siers. Board members also include News & Observer President and Editor Robyn Tomlin, Observer President and Editor Sherry Chisenhall, Opinion Writer Sara Pequeño in Raleigh, Opinion Intern Paige Masten in Charlotte and longtime News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders. For any questions about the board or our editorials, email [email protected]

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