The days of oil rigs off the coast of the Outer Banks is still many years away, if it ever comes. But the state of North Carolina is already making plans that will allow oil companies to use seismic imaging to search for possible oil reserves.
Donald Van der Vaart, the Energy Policy Advisor with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, told the North Carolina Energy Policy Council that seismic testing was last done off the coast of North Carolina in the 1980s.
“Those seismic tests were more of a data technology,” he explained. “And the idea under the current proposed environmental impact study is that the more high-level, recent technology is going to be brought to bear.”
That more recent technology uses sonic canons that can harm sea creatures. Seismic exploration could occur off the Carolina coast in 2017.
In July, the Obama Administration reopened seismic exploration in part of the Atlantic Ocean. Governor Pat McCrory also supports the idea of offshore oil exploration. He chairs the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition. That group will meet in North Carolina in November.
During its meeting Wednesday, the North Carolina Energy Policy Council also heard more about the prospects of solar energy in the state.
Earlier this week, Duke Energy announced it would be investing $500 million dollars in solar farm construction and energy production.
John Morrison, the vice president of Strata Solar - the company that is building the largest of the solar farms for Duke - told the Council that the cost of solar energy production is decreasing as the cost of coal and nuclear production is increasing.
“This trend is likely to continue,” he said. “The utilities are in the midst of a rather large-scale change in its energy portfolio.”
North Carolina is currently seventh in the country in solar energy production, but could be second by the end of the year.
Opponents of solar energy say it is still a very small source of electricity, is too intermittent, and that the solar industry receives too many tax credits.