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Plan submitted for NC’s first offshore wind farm. Now, project needs a buyer.

Nearly four years after winning a bid for the leasing rights in waters off the Outer Banks, developer Avangrid Renewables has taken a big step toward the construction of what would be the state’s first off-shore wind farm.

Avangrid has submitted what’s known as a Construction and Operations Plan to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for the first phase of the project.

While it’s a big step, energy groups caution that it’s still dependent on finding a buyer for the project designated for off the coast of Kitty Hawk.

“The options are limitless,” said Katharine Kollins, president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, which advocates for the expansion of wind energy.

One possibility is Dominion Energy (NYSE: D), which is already pushing forward with the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. But it’s not the only option. Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), too, could potentially partner in the project.

“I do think there’s a possibility that North Carolina does decide to include offshore wind in its generating portfolio at some point,” Kollins said, noting that it would likely require legislation. Corporate buyers are also a possibility. “I think the timing on when they’re actually able to develop that project and start construction will very much depend on a buyer,” she said.

Duke declined to comment through a spokesperson, saying it doesn’t comment on “rumors or speculation.” A Dominion spokesman said its “immediate focus” was on the Virginia project, and wouldn’t comment specifically on any speculation relating to North Carolina.

If a buyer is found, the project, dubbed Kitty Hawk Offshore Wind, could begin construction as soon as 2024. If all goes as expected, it will have the capacity to generate about 800 megawatts of electricity. When all phases are complete, the wind farm should have total generation capacity of 2,500 megawatts, or enough to power 700,000 homes.

The Construction and Operation Plan includes the findings of an economic impact study, which predicts “substantial” economic and employment benefits from the construction of the project – $2 billion in economic impact and nearly 800 jobs. Much of that benefit will be in Virginia, where the firm determined it was more “conducive” to put the massive cable that will link a power station to the wind farm, which will be located 27 miles off of the coast.

Avangrid executives were not made available for interviews, but celebrated the news in a press release.

“We’re proud to be the first to submit a federal permit for a commercial scale offshore wind project in Virginia and the Carolinas,” said Bill White, Avangrid Renewables’ head of U.S. offshore wind. “Kitty Hawk Offshore Wind will deliver clean energy to customers in the region and significant economic benefits and quality jobs for decades to come.”

Kitty Hawk could be just the start for North Carolina, as two other tracts off the state’s coastline have been identified by the federal government – one is known as Wilmington West and the other Wilmington East. The three sites combined make up more than 1.2 million acres of federal waters. Additionally, four sites have been identified off of South Carolina. Altogether, tracts off of the Carolinas could mean $45 billion in investment, according to a recent research report.

The Wilmington sites, however, have yet to be put up for lease bids.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management could identify new lease areas that are closer to the existing Avangrid lease, Kollins said.

Interest in the Carolinas has been muted compared to in the Northeast. A recent report attributed that to “a lack of an offshore mandate … lower power prices and lower capacity factors.”

As for Avangrid, it submitted its site plan earlier this year. And the firm did not separate the impact to the North Carolina economy in its filings.

“The economic impact study modeled Virginia and the Hampton Roads metropolitan statistical area (MSA) which includes northeastern North Carolina,” a spokesperson said Monday. “The model is not able to separate impacts between North Carolina and Virginia within the MSA. However, it highlights that the majority of the economic impacts will be in Hampton Roads, consisting of over $1.3 billion of the total $2 billion in construction-related economic impacts and over 580 of the nearly 800 jobs expected over the next decade.”