Video by: Claire Galt
Graphics by: Kendal Orrantia
Photos by: Elise Mahon
Offshore wind — clean renewable energy produced by turbines taking advantage of wind speeds — has recently seen an uptake at federal and state levels, including in North Carolina. A new offshore wind project has been approved for the Outer Banks, and another is proposed off the coast of Wilmington.
The state has one fully functional onshore wind project, a 104-turbine Amazon Wind Farm in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, which was completed in 2017.
The new and proposed projects parallel government efforts to expand offshore wind. In June, Gov. Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 218, committing to the development of offshore wind projects.
The Kitty Hawk Offshore wind project off the coast of the Outer Banks is being developed by Avangrid Renewables, the third-largest wind generator in the U.S. Avangrid Renewables also developed the Amazon Wind Farm.
Katharine Kollins, president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, said the Kitty Hawk Offshore wind turbines will not be visible from shore. The turbines will be more than 27 miles from the Outer Banks and would produce enough electricity to power about 700,000 homes.
“Other projects have the potential to be visible, but just barely,” Kollins said.
Visual impact is one of the largest concerns, including for community members in the Wilmington East wind energy area. On Aug. 2, the Brunswick County commissioners passed a resolution opposing the construction of wind turbines within 24 nautical miles of the county shorelines – which are part of the Wilmington East wind energy area. The resolution specifically mentions the harm to tourism on the Brunswick County beaches due to the visual impact of the wind turbines.
But the farther offshore, the more expensive it is to operate the wind turbines.
An additional obstacle is a Trump-era order prohibiting offshore energy developments from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2032.
“Because they recognize that if North Carolina wants an additional lease area, in addition to Kitty Hawk, that we’re going to need to lease the Wilmington area before July of 2022 unless we can get some federal legislation, which is in the works.”