At least five offshore wind-energy projects are now on the horizon for North Carolina.
Just ahead of a May 11 auction of lease rights for utility-scale wind farms on two Atlantic Ocean sites about 20 miles from Bald Head Island, federal officials say they now are targeting an additional pair of areas totaling 1.2 million acres off the North Carolina coast.
While auctions will determine the next steps for those four sites, planning already is underway for what is being called the Kitty Hawk Offshore project 27 miles from the Outer Banks. When fully operational, that wind array is expected to produce 2,500 megawatts of power, enough to supply electricity to 700,000 homes at a time.
In all, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management at the U.S. Department of the Interior announced April 27 that it was soliciting companies interested in leasing six newly identified Atlantic areas totaling 3.9 million acres for wind projects. The two new North Carolina sites are 36 and 66 miles east of the Outer Banks.
Three of the other new potential lease areas areas are primarily off the coast of Virginia and one is near the Delaware-Maryland state line.
Auctions on the newly announced Atlantic sites – including the two off North Carolina – are expected in the second quarter of 2023, according to a BOEM timeline.
The agency also said last week it is looking for potential developers of wind projects on two sites totaling nearly 1.2 million acres in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon.
The waves of possible projects are aimed at achieving President Joe Biden’s goal for the U.S. to generate 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.
“The upcoming steps taken toward possible leasing off the coast of Oregon and Central Atlantic provides another opportunity to strengthen the clean energy industry while creating good-paying union jobs,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Deb Haaland said with the announcement of the potential new leasing areas April 27. “We will continue using every tool in our toolbox to tackle the climate crisis, reduce our emissions to reach President Biden’s bold goals, and advance environmental justice.”
BOEM will accept public comment on the proposed new leasing sites through June 28.
State-level environmental advocates praised the announcement of the latest potential Atlantic sites.
“North Carolinians know the power of the winds blowing across our beautiful coast,” said Montravias King, clean energy campaigns director at the N.C. League of Conservation Voters. “Those winds will soon power millions of North Carolina homes and businesses, saving us money on our utility bills, preventing the worst impacts of climate change, and creating family-sustaining careers in the home-grown clean energy supply chain.”
The May 11 auction will involve lease rights for wind-energy production on two sites covering nearly 111,000 acres of ocean about 20 miles from Bald Head Island.
BOEM estimates that the two sites, in an area known as Carolina Long Bay, could generate at least 1,300 megawatts of power – enough to provide electricity to nearly a half-million homes at a time.
The auction comes less than two months before a 10-year moratorium on offshore energy leases in the southern Atlantic is scheduled to take effect July 1.
The restrictions are tied to an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in 2020. The ban cannot be overturned by a subsequent order from Biden. Congress must pass legislation to do so.
A pre-emptive lifting of the ban was expected to be part of Biden’s proposed “Build Back Better” social spending and climate plan that stalled in the U.S. Senate. But a reversal is expected to be tucked into future legislation.
In the near term, the interior department has approved 16 potential bidders for the Carolina Long Bay auction.
They include Duke Energy, global giants BP and Shell and less familiar names including Avangrid, which is leading the Kitty Hawk Project.
The clean-energy industry will be watching the Carolina Long Bay auction closely.
In February, the federal government announced a record $4.37 billion sale of six wind leases covering more than 488,000 acres in the waters off New York and New Jersey.
The $10,700 per-acre winning bid for the area known as New York Bight was more than 10 times the previous high of $1,000 per acre.
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