Offshore Wind Basics


Offshore wind energy has had a promising start in North Carolina. There’s lots more work to be done, but much progress had been made in the recent months. Here’s a quick look at what’s going on in our state.

Spain’s Iberdrola Renewables subsidiary Atlantic Wind has recently been granted approval by the North Carolina Utilities commission for a 300 MW wind energy project.

The Desert Wind Power Project will use private agricultural land near Elizabeth City in Pasquotank and Perquimans Counties in northeastern North Carolina to begin the state’s first large-scale wind operation.  Although it has been in the planning stages since 2009, it will require federal, state, and local permits before construction can be initiated, possibly as early as late 2011. Despite being onshore, Desert Wind will be the state’s first (promising!) foray into wind energy.

In light of recent scientific evidence that showcases North Carolina’s magnificent offshore wind potential, several other developers are also beginning to explore the possibility of offshore wind farms in the state.

Support for offshore wind in North Carolina’s communities is also building! In March, Carolina BeachWrightsville Beach, the Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce, and Kure Beach all passed resolutions in favor of offshore wind development in our state. Here are some of the points all of these resolutions recognized:

North Carolina’s shallow-water wind resources are the best on the Atlantic coast, with 58 GW of available capacity.

58 GW amounts to 130% of the state’s energy demands, which are projected to grow 40% over the next 20 years.

$2.35 billion is spent annually on the importation of coal into our state, amounting to 55% of our electricity generation.

The offshore wind industry stands to create 45,000 jobs in construction and 9,100 jobs in permanent maintenance over the next 20 years, delivering $22 billion in total economic benefit to our state.

Jobs created by the wind industry are not easily outsourced and must be located in proximity to the coast, spurring homegrown economic development.

Therefore, it ought to be the role of North Carolina’s coastal communities (and the state in general) to: adopt policies providing regulatory and financial certainty to developers, incentivize the building of manufacturing facilities in North Carolina, support further research and detailed modeling of offshore wind, educate the public on offshore wind, update the current electrical grid, prepare for offshore wind projects in federal waters, and promote our world-class business environment and wind resources to industry leaders.

Remember, if you are an elected official and would like for the NC Sierra Club to present on offshore wind at your next meeting, please contact Offshore Wind Campaign Coordinator, Mac Montgomery, at

On July 1, 2011, Governor Bev Perdue signed Executive Order No. 96, establishing North Carolina’s Offshore Wind Economic Development Task Force! Read more about the Task Force here.