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Cooper sets ambitious targets, the state's first, for offshore wind development
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Cooper sets ambitious targets, the state's first, for offshore wind development

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RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper has announced the state’s first-ever targets for offshore wind energy development as part of an executive order, the latest in a series of steps to move the still-fledgling industry forward.

North Carolina’s newly announced targets are 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030 and 8 gigawatts by 2040. By comparison, Virginia has a target of 5.2 gigawatts by 2034, New Jersey a goal of 7.5 gigawatts by 2035 and Maryland a target of 1.2 gigawatts by 2030.

In addition to setting offshore wind goals, the executive order establishes the NC Task Force for Offshore Wind Economic Resource Strategies, or NC TOWERS, an effort led by the state Department of Commerce to boost offshore wind economic development efforts. Cooper is also directing several state agencies to identify point people for offshore wind and calling for quarterly meetings of the NC Offshore Wind Interagency Task Group.

“This coordinated approach to developing our offshore wind supply chain will bring new jobs to North Carolina for generations to come. From building out the supply chain, to installing equipment, to operating the wind facilities, North Carolina’s manufacturers and workforce are well positioned to play an integral role in the entire East Coast market, not just for projects directly off the state’s coast,” Machelle Baker Sanders, the state’s commerce secretary, said in a prepared statement.

The NC Clean Energy Plan, published in October 2019, set a target of a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050 while ensuring that energy is affordable and creating economic opportunities. Offshore wind featured prominently in that report.

Among the efforts to come out of the clean energy plan were a partnership with Maryland and Virginia announced last October that is meant to promote the states as a “hub” for the offshore industry and help develop supply chains.

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Earlier this year, North Carolina leaders including Cooper and Reps. Deborah Ross and David Rouzer called on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to explore leasing the two areas off of the Brunswick County coast that were identified for wind energy development in 2014.

In a May 18 letter to Ross and other members of the North Carolina congressional delegation, Amanda Lefton, the agency’s director, wrote that the agency is working toward another lease sale off the state’s coast.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has already leased a 122,405-acre tract about 24 nautical miles off of Kitty Hawk. According to Avangrid, which leased the Kitty Hawk area, it has the potential to generate about 2.5 gigawatts once completed. There are 1,000 megawatts in a gigawatt.

A construction plan Avangrid submitted in December shows that the first phase of the Kitty Hawk project would have the capacity to produce 800 megawatts and that construction could start as soon as 2024.

Lefton also wrote that BOEM is working “to address” a 10-year moratorium on offshore energy that is set to become effective on July 1, 2022. Ross has co-sponsored legislation to reauthorize leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Katharine Kollins, the president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for wind energy, told The News & Observer that BOEM should be able to lease one or both North Carolina sites before the July 2022 moratorium falls into place.

Of the sites off of the Brunswick coast, Kollins said, “We’re fairly certain that visual impact is almost always the primary concern and the closest area is 13 miles offshore which is pretty far when it comes to visual impact. You can see it, but it’s on clear days, primarily.”

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