NAGS HEAD – The federal government will likely lease the first tracts off Kitty Hawk for a wind farm by the end of the year, a federal official said at an energy forum in Nags Head last week.
A lease doesn’t mean that electricity will begin flowing soon, noted Jim Bennett, chief of the Office of Renewable Energy Programs at the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. At least two environmental studies will have to be done and the infrastructure built. Nonetheless, the lease for sale would be a very significant first step, Bennett said.
Bennett’s agency is responsible for leasing and permitting energy projects in federal offshore waters. It has offered to lease tracts off Kitty Hawk and off Cape Fear for wind energy. The tracts off the Outer Banks could produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power a small city. However, that estimate may be low as new technologies are developed. “They (wind turbines) are getting bigger and getting more efficient,” Bennett said.
Currently no offshore wind farms exist in U.S. waters. The waters off the N.C. coast are considered prime for development because the area is thought to have the best wind resources on the East Coast.
The forum, sponsored by the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, focused on renewable and alternative energy.
Dewey Hemilright, a Kitty Hawk commercial fisherman, asked Bennett about the access commercial fishermen would have to areas leased for wind energy. The lease, Bennett explained, doesn’t give the owner exclusive use of the area. “The lessee can and should negotiate how that area is accessed,” he replied.
Reporter Kip Tabb contributed to this story.
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