SECWC: Buffer for Kitty Hawk Unnecessarily Large

The Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition (SECWC) commends BOEM’s efforts to move the offshore wind industry forward in the Southeast, as the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released an Announcement of Area Identification for North Carolina yesterday, defining three Wind Energy Areas (WEA) totaling 307,590 acres. 

SECWC Buffer for Kitty Hawk Unnecessarily Large

The WEAs announced were refined based on stakeholder feedback following BOEM’s announcement of proposed areas for potential offshore wind leasing in 2012. The resulting WEAs include 122,405 acres in the Kitty Hawk area, 51,595 acres in the Wilmington West area and 133,590 acres in the Wilmington East area. The Kitty Hawk area was reduced from its previous 877,837 acres due to vessel traffic and a 33.7 nautical mile visual buffer requested by the National Park Service.

The Wilmington West area was reduced from its previous 66,185 acres, omitting areas within 10 nautical miles of the shore based on the results of a Visual Simulation Study released by BOEM in 2012. The Wilmington East area was reduced from its previous 276,718 acres due to vessel traffic and sensitive habitats.

The Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition stated that it is pleased to see progress towards an offshore industry in North Carolina, though some aspects of the recent announcement are of concern, explaining: “The largest of the state’s future leasing areas, the Kitty Hawk call area, was reduced by approximately 86% to create an unprecedented and exceptionally wide visual buffer. While the 10 nautical mile visual buffer selected for the Wilmington West area was based on a scientifically valid visual simulation study, the 33.7 nautical mile buffer for the Kitty Hawk area does not appear to be supported by any solid scientific assessment.

“North Carolina has the largest offshore wind resource potential on the East Coast. However, the state’s ability to play a significant role in the offshore industry, and thus reap the associated economic benefits, is dependent on an open process to identify sites that are suitable for offshore wind based on solid scientific assessment.

“We anticipate that actual experience with offshore wind farms in the U.S. will demonstrate that such a buffer is unnecessary and that future leasing sites for North Carolina can be identified accordingly.

“The Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition looks forward to an ongoing dialogue with BOEM and all relevant stakeholders to responsibly advance the U.S. offshore wind industry.” 

Press release, August 13, 2014; Image: Vattenfall (Illustration)