A Mighty Wind, But No Offshore Turbines In NC's Immediate Future

Oct 13, 2014

At maximum output, the three wind turbines at Jennette's Pier in Nags Head are capable of providing about half of the facility's power.
Credit Dave DeWitt

Whether it’s in the mountains or off the coast, North Carolina has plenty of wind. It also has a lot of land, suitable ports, and infrastructure to become a major player in the industry along the east coast.

But that hasn’t happened.

“There’s a lot of opportunity economically providing fixed-cost energy into North Carolina and creating an industry here locally,” Craig Poff, the Director of Business Development at Iberdrola Renewables, told the Coastal Energy Summit. “And unfortunately some of the signals that have been sent in the last couple of years have led to a slowdown in other developers.”

Poff cites the passage of a wind energy regulatory bill in 2013 as the main cause for the slowdown. State Republican lawmakers have largely deregulated other energy production, but ramped up rules for potential wind farms, making it more feasible for wind companies to look to other states.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has designated three areas off the state’s coastline for potential wind development. One is off of Kitty Hawk, the other two are near Wilmington.

That is likely to get the attention of the tourism industry.

“At the distance of ten to 15 miles with perfect visibility, meaning no haze, if you stuck your arm out in front of your face, and offshore wind turbines would be about the size of your pinky nail on the horizon,” said Brian O'Hara, the president of the Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition.