USA: South Carolina and North Carolina Collaborate to Accelerate Development of Offshore Wind Energy

Representatives from South Carolina and North Carolina met in Charlotte in June to discuss opportunities for collaborating to accelerate the development of offshore wind energy on the south Atlantic seaboard. The meeting is being heralded as a significant first step towards regional collaboration for offshore wind in the Southeast.

The objective of the two-state meeting was to explore ways to leverage each state’s unique experience, knowledge, and resources to accelerate the deployment of offshore wind energy in a way that is mutually beneficial to both states. “Our states are uniquely positioned with strengths and advantages that complement each other.” said Elizabeth Colbert-Busch of the Clemson University Restoration Institute. Some of the initial opportunities that were discussed included enabling various research institutions to collaborate on future research projects and exploring the possibility of an offshore wind energy project along the NC/SC border.

Represented organizations included U.S. Department of Energy Savannah River National Laboratory, Santee Cooper, N.C. Offshore Wind Coalition, N.C. Department of Commerce, N.C. Solar Center, N.C. Energy Office, N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, S.C. Energy Office, Clemson University Restoration Institute, Coastal Carolina University, S.C. Coastal Conservation League, North Strand Coastal Wind Team, and City of North Myrtle Beach.

An Impressive Resource

According to a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 33 percent of the total East Coast offshore wind potential within 50 miles of the shoreline is located off the coast of North and South Carolina and both states have offshore wind energy resources that exceed their current installed electricity generation capacity. “Based on the report, North Carolina and South Carolina have the largest offshore wind energy resources in shallow water on the Atlantic Seaboard,” said Ralph Nichols Wind Energy Program Manager at the Savannah River National Laboratory. Indeed, if one looks at wind potential in shallow water (less than 30 meters) and more than 12 miles from the shore, an important consideration in limiting visual impacts, the figures are even more impressive, with the Carolinas alone holding more than half of East Coast resource. Adding Virginia and Georgia bumps that figure to over 82 percent. “This excellent wind resource, combined with outstanding port facilities in the region, should attract investment by utilities and the offshore wind industry,” said Nichols.

Other Advantages

The Carolinas not only have an impressive energy resource, but may also have some distinct business advantages. “This is an industry where about 10 percent of the cost is materials and 90 percent is labor, and that represents a significant advantage for the lower-cost labor markets of the Southeast to attract manufacturing,” said Jen Banks of the N.C. Solar Center. That dynamic helps to explain why there are currently over three thousand people in the Carolinas already employed in the wind industry supply chain despite not having a single utility-scale wind farm operating in either of the two states.

While the Carolinas have already started to explore options for collaboration, the groups are also open to talking with neighboring states. “Regional solutions are ultimately what make sense for the United States offshore wind industry”, said Brian O’Hara, President of the NC Offshore Wind Coalition. Hamilton Davis of the SC Coastal Conservation League agrees. “This is a great first step in organizing the Southeastern states and working together towards some common goals.”


Source: Southeastern US, July 11, 2011;