Areas for wind energy leases

A bipartisan group of North Carolina U.S. representatives has strongly endorsed federal efforts to develop offshore wind energy with seven members of Congress – more than half the delegation - requesting a personal briefing later this month and stating they wanted to act quickly and avoid a decade-long moratorium on new wind energy leases imposed by former President Donald Trump set to begin July 2022.

The letter from two Republicans and five Democrats acknowledges a recent study commissioned by the N.C. Department of Commerce that found tremendous potential for growth in offshore wind generation. The study stated, in part, that North Carolina could generate far more energy than the state is projected to use in 2035 and could capture future investments exceeding $100-billion in the wind energy business. The study, conducted by industry consultants and N.C. State University, details how North Carolina’s existing ports and other infrastructure could support expansion of wind energy and provides a blueprint for long-term improvements.

The letter from the Congress members asks the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to promptly and responsibly advance existing lease areas and identify new ones, if possible.

“We look forward to working with BOEM … to move these processes forward, capture the massive economic potential of this nascent industry and meet the clean energy goals outlines by both President (Joe) Biden and our home state,” wrote Republican representatives Richard Hudson and David Rouzer and Democrats Deborah Ross, Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield, David Price and Kathy Manning.

“This is a great example of bipartisanship

See Wind, page 8A

and how we can work together in North Carolina,” said Randy Sturgill, campaign organizer for the nonprofit environmental group Oceana.

“North Carolina is particularly well-positioned to meaningfully contribute to the offshore wind industry,” the Congress members wrote. “We rank first among East Coast states in both technical potential for offshore wind generation capacity and manufacturing workforces…

“For North Carolina to realize its full potential in the offshore market, BOEM must expeditiously begin leasing (wind energy areas) … We respectfully urge BOEM to take swift action to hold lease sales for two of our (areas) - Wilmington East and Wilmington West - so that lease agreements can be executed in advance of the July 1 (2022) deadline. We also respectfully request that the Biden-Harris administration take all available measures to remove the impending decade-long moratorium on offshore wind leasing …

“As our country begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that we capitalize on growth opportunities that will provide both near and long-term benefits for our communities and our economy,” the representatives stated. “BOEM has the opportunity to accelerate this recovery by bolstering an industry that is poised to provide billions in economic development and hundreds of thousands of new living-wage jobs.”

Reaction

“This report confirms what we’ve known for some time, that North Carolina stands to make major economic - and environmental - gains by developing its offshore wind energy sector,” said Erin Carey of the N.C. Sierra Club, in a prepared statement. “Our environment, our manufacturing industries, our work force and our communities will all benefit from offshore wind development. We’re heartened by the (Gov. Roy) Cooper administration’s commitment to clean energy expansion in our state.”

Environmental groups, including Oceana, praised the shift toward renewable energy. A recent Oceana analysis stated that ending new leasing for offshore oil and gas could prevent more than 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions as well as more than $720 billion in damages to people, property, and the environment. Additionally, the analysis found that ending new leasing will also safeguard the U.S. coast economy, which supports around 3.3 million jobs and $250 billion in GDP through activities like tourism, recreation, and fishing.

“By permanently protecting our coasts from dirty offshore drilling and advancing clean energy sources like offshore wind, we can simultaneously combat climate change and safeguard our clean coast economy,” said Sturgill. “President Biden has an incredible opportunity to act on climate change and protect our coasts once and for all by closing the chapter on future offshore oil leasing.

“If enacted, President Biden’s campaign commitments to tackle the climate crisis and protect our waters from new offshore oil drilling will ensure we build back better, keep coastal economies safe from oil disasters and support a transition to clean, renewable energy.”

The report further evaluates North Carolina’s position in areas that include business climate, workforce, infrastructure and location. The state recognizes that it has a number of competitive advantages specific to the offshore wind supply chain that include:

• Pro-business climate

• Strategic geographic location

• Relatively large electricity consumption (nine-percent of East Coast states’ electricity) and growing demand for renewable energy

• Relatively low CO2 electricity footprint

• The North Carolina Clean Energy Plan goal of 70-percent reduction in power sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and a carbon-neutral power sector by 2050

• The major electricity provider to most of North Carolina, Duke Energy, has set a near-term carbon reduction goal of at least 50-percent by 2030 and long-term goal of net-zero by 2050.

The report, titled “Building North Carolina’s Offshore Wind Supply Chain,” is available at https://www.nccommerce.com.Brunswick coast