Any hope that the coast off Southeastern North Carolina would someday be home to wind farms seemed dashed by preliminary federal maps that put vast areas off limits to turbines.
Much of the area running from about Morehead City to the South Carolina border would be excluded for military reasons, according to the government maps.
It was only last August that the federal government received the first formal application for a potential wind-energy project off the N.C. coast, not far from some New Hanover and Pender county beaches.
Apex Wind Energy requested to lease 214 square miles of ocean, all more than 20 miles off the coast, to explore the area’s feasibility for a wind farm.
The Onslow Bay area was selected because of its lack of environmental and other conflicts and its strong sustained winds, according to Apex’s application to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
But the far north and far south tracts – the latter adjoining South Carolina waters – in the Onslow Bay area are still viable, Apex development director Rob Propes said Tuesday.
There are other reasons for exclusions of other offshore North Carolina waters: high fish habitat, high-level bird habitat and low foundation potential, according to the N.C. Offshore Wind Energy potential development areas maps.
Still to be considered are concerns from the National Parks Service.
Propes, however, said “these maps are sort of directional (and) are no way near final. There’s still a heck of a lot of lease blocks that remain viable,” though he admitted that the military exclusions were pretty much beyond change.
“Over 500 lease blocks are still on the table for discussion,” he said. A lease block could produce 100 to 125 megawatts of energy with a combined total of more than 50,000 megawatts of potential over all the lease areas, Propes said.
By comparison, the two reactors at Progress Energy’s Brunswick Nuclear Plant at Southport produce 1,875 megawatts
Apex will not submit any other applications until the official call for proposals, Propes said.
“I would say they’d like to have something come out by late summer or early fall,” he said.
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