Gov. Cooper issues Executive Order requiring North Carolina to ramp up wind energy projects

By: - June 9, 2021 12:02 pm

Offshore wind power will become a more integral part of the state’s clean energy plan, according to Executive Order 218, issued by Gov. Roy Cooper today.

North Carolina will “strive” to develop 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind energy, enough to power 700,000 homes, over the next decade, with a total of 8 gigawatts of wind power 2040, the order reads.

The 8-gigawatt figure would generate 25% of the state’s electricity consumption.

Since the legislature’s moratorium on wind energy expired in 2018, North Carolina has looked for ways to restart the fledgling industry, not only for environmental reasons but economic ones.

In March, the Department of Commerce released a report showing that one 352-megawatt offshore wind farm would create an estimated 5,522 direct/indirect construction jobs and an estimated 191 direct/indirect jobs.

The order directs several agencies to collaborate on developing wind energy resources.

The state Department of Commerce will designate a coordinator to focus on workforce, supply chain and economic opportunities related to the clean energy economy. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders will also establish a task force to address the fledgling wind industry in North Carolina. That includes “equitable access, particularly in underserved communities, to the economic benefits created by the offshore wind industry.”

The NC Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs also have a role in the offshore wind development.

DEQ is required to collaborate with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and other federal partners to advance the leasing and development of North Carolina’s existing wind energy areas. One area, 27 miles offshore of the Outer Banks, would encompass 200 square miles. Avangrid plans to build its Kitty Hawk wind farm there beginning in 2025.

Two more potential wind farms have been identified: Wilmington East would be located 17 miles offshore and encompass 208 square miles. Wilmington West would be 11 miles offshore and encompass 80 square miles.

The agency would also “review, clarify and streamline regulatory and permitting requirements,” as appropriate, that are applicable to offshore wind energy development, related onshore infrastructure and attendant offshore wind energy–related activities.

Meanwhile, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Work would consult on avoiding conflicts among competing ocean uses, such as military operations and readiness, shipping lanes, habitat and migratory patterns, fishing and visibility.

The Environmental Defense Fund issued a statement supporting the governor’s executive order:

Michelle Allen, project manager for EDF’s North Carolina Political Affairs team wrote that the executive order “signals that North Carolina isn’t watching from the sidelines when it comes to offshore wind – our state is ready to seize the moment and claim billions of dollars for the state’s economy while reaping the priceless benefits of a cleaner, healthier, more resilient energy system … Meeting North Carolina’s climate and clean energy goals will require a combination of smart policies to reduce carbon pollution and accelerate clean energy. Offshore wind will play a key role in reducing power sector carbon pollution with proven, reliable, pollution-free energy.”

Likewise, the Sierra Club supported the governor’s order.

“North Carolina is one of the most promising locations on the East Coast for offshore wind development. Governor Cooper’s targets for offshore wind energy production are a clear message to clean energy investors that North Carolina will support their businesses,” said Erin Carey, the N.C. Sierra Club’s director of coastal programs. “We have the location, the workforce, and the backing of state and local governments to take advantage of our coastline’s great clean energy potential and to help address climate change.”

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Lisa Sorg
Lisa Sorg

Assistant Editor and Environmental Reporter Lisa Sorg helps manage newsroom operations while covering the environment, climate change, agriculture and energy.