Governor Cooper envisions future for offshore wind power in North Carolina, causing tourism concerns for coastal leaders
Wilmington, N.C. – At a task force meeting in Wilmington on Thursday, Gov. Roy Cooper touted the future of offshore wind energy in North Carolina and called on the state to capitalize on the burgeoning technology.
But leaders of the coastal areas near the sites where the wind farms would be built have concerns about the impact the turbines could have on tourism.
“Clean energy is the right thing for our planet and our pocketbooks,” Cooper told the task force during his remarks.
Elected officials, business leaders and clean energy advocates came together Thursday morning for the first ever meeting of NC TOWERS, the state’s offshore wind task force established by Cooper last June through Executive Order 218.
“Why clean energy? It is essential to fighting climate change,” said Cooper.
Cooper said the environment was one of the reasons he chose to make offshore wind energy a priority. Last month, he signed Executive Order 246, which aimed to make North Carolina’s economy carbon neutral by 2050.
But Cooper also emphasized the financial impact offshore wind power could have on the state. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce found that on the Atlantic coast alone, the industry could create $140 billion in investments and 85,000 new jobs by 2035.
“It is astounding the amount of clean energy that we can produce and the amount of money that can go in the pockets of North Carolinians,” Cooper said.
Two offshore wind energy projects in NC
Two major offshore wind projects are in the works already. One is Kitty Hawk Offshore, an effort from Avangrid Renewables off the coast of northeastern North Carolina that could start construction by 2026, eventually powering up to 700,000 homes.
The other is Wilmington East, a potential wind farm site that the federal government has been trying to lease to a power company that could provide enough electricity for more than 500,000 homes.
That site would be offshore from Brunswick County, where local leaders weren’t as enthusiastic about the prospect of turbines on the horizon.
“People are very concerned about how visible wind turbine farms might impact tourism,” said Brunswick County Manager Steve Stone.
Stone said that travel to Brunswick’s oceanfront has been the county’s biggest source of growth, and one they’re looking to preserve.
In August, both Brunswick County and a number of its towns passed resolutions calling for wind turbines to be installed far enough away that they can’t be seen from shore.
“We’re simply asking that if wind turbines were going to be built off our coast, they be at least 24 nautical miles from the coast,” Stone said.
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