CAPE ROMAIN – A company seeking to build a wind farm off New Jersey wants to see how the wind blows off Bulls Bay and Charleston, too.
Fisherman’s Energy is one of two companies whose officials have told federal regulators they are interested in permits for areas off the coast. Fisherman’s Energy wants to work in a large stretch within 10 miles of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge – an area opposed by local conservationists – and two smaller stretches farther out, the closer one more than 20 miles out to sea from Charleston Harbor.
The cape is a national wildlife refuge north of Charleston, a vital nursery for threatened and endangered sea turtles and a feeding and roosting ground for hundreds of flocks of migratory birds.
The company also is interested in a broad area to the north off the Grand Strand from North Myrtle Beach to Winyah Bay. The second applicant, Wind Energy, a Maryland company, is interested only in the Grand Strand waters.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is pursuing opening the leasing process, said spokeswoman Tracey Moriarity.
Calls to Fisherman’s Energy asking for comment were not returned.
The federal move to open the waters to wind turbine power generation began in 2015, coming on the heels and somewhat overshadowed by the controversial bid to open the same waters to offshore exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas. Drilling leases have been halted but leasing for seismic blast exploration is still in process and widely opposed.
The wind field off South Carolina is considered strong enough often enough in spots to drive an array of wind turbines, but wind speeds and consistency are much stronger in the Northeast, where the first of a few East Coast projects are in the planning stages or under construction.
The relatively weaker wind field offshore had made uncertain any interest in leasing it, and no South Carolina-based company bid on the leases, despite the Clemson Wind Turbine Testing Facility in North Charleston and utilities having other, smaller scale alternative energy efforts underway.
In contrast, exploration companies were lined up expressing interest before BOEM opened the leasing process for oil and natural gas drilling.
A 2012 Clemson University study estimated that a 1,000-megawatt offshore wind project could mean 3,800 jobs and $3.6 billion economic benefit. It also could mean more than $600 million in state and local government revenue.
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