North Carolina's Outer Banks Get Ready for Another Clean Energy Plan

While some areas of the United States are leading the way in renewable energy innovation, others aren’t so ahead of the game. North Carolina, in particular, has yet to adopt any large scale renewable energy projects, though interest remains high and some great concepts continue to pop up across the state. One area of interest in the last couple of years has been North Carolina’s coast and the possibility of using it for offshore wind farms. Assuming the newest project that has appeared is carried through, North Carolina’s Outer Banks may soon be known more for wind turbines than the trademark lighthouses and grassy sand dunes.

I wrote a few months ago that Duke Energy, one of the largest energy utilities in the Southeastern United States, had partnered with the University of North Carolina to bring renewable energy to the coast. Although the researchers in charge of the project found several areas along the Outer Banks that would serve as ideal locations for an offshore wind farm, Duke eventually decided to back out of any immediate construction. The initial plan was to place three turbines in Pamlico Sound as a pilot for the development of a larger farm. However, the cost for the project as they prepared nearly tripled estimated costs causing Duke to declare it was not within the best interests of their customers to continue.

Instead of following through with the construction, the energy utility decided to donate $405,000 to the University’s programs involving the study of renewable energy on the North Carolina coast. Researchers also believe the data gained was beneficial in determining the best place for offshore wind farms in the future. They now think that locations closer to the shore in Pamlico Sound are too shallow to allow for the construction of any offshore wind farms without resulting in high construction costs and extensive damage to the local flora. With Pamlico Sound crossed off the list, researchers are now considering which locations farther offshore would better suit their designs.

Where Duke Energy has decided to take a step back and reconsider, another company has moved in with their own renewable energy plans. A few days ago the U.S. government received the first application to build a wind farm off the coast of North Carolina from Virginia based company Apex Wind Energy. Apex currently hopes to begin a five year assessment of 213 square miles of ocean space that is located twenty miles directly offshore in Onslow Bay. Should they receive enough support from both federal and state governments, Apex is planning to build a fairly substantial offshore wind farm. Once completed, they hope the farm would be capable of providing several megawatts of power directly to Wilmington, North Carolina and other coastal cities.

It would be ideal if Apex Wind Energy was able to eventually carry out their plan to begin supplying North Carolina’s coast with renewable energy. With enough support behind their project it might be possible for other wind farm projects to get underway while other renewable energy forms continue to develop throughout the state. It is also possible that this project could be the one spark North Carolina needs to start moving on serious renewable energy change.

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