Offshore wind farms coming to southeastern NC ::

— North Carolina’s nascent offshore wind industry has two key new players.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced Wednesday that Duke Energy and TotalEnergies were the winning bidders in the Carolina Long Bay auction, paving the way for more offshore wind turbines.

The two adjacent sites are approximately 55,000 square acres each and are located approximately 15 nautical miles south of Bald Head Island. The development should not be visible from the island or the coast, although it is closer than local leaders had hoped.

When fully developed in a few years’ time, the sites together could supply half a million households with power, according to BOEM.

TotalEnergies’ winning bid was $160 million. Duke offered $155 million.

For the first time, BOEM included an optional auction credit. Winning bidders can get credit of up to 20% of their bid by investing a slightly lower amount in employee training programs or by boosting the US industry supply chain.

The two winning companies will invest a total of up to $42 million in those initiatives.

“The new bidding credit in the Carolina Long Bay auction will result in tangible investment for the training of personnel and businesses in the United States to ultimately create jobs in the US in all sectors needed to achieve our offshore wind goals” , says BOEM director Amanda Lefton. †

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are already at least 20 production facilities associated with the wind power industry in North Carolina. Investments in lease loans can yield much more.

North Carolina has another lease already in development with the northern Outer Banks. Avangrid Renewables’ Kitty Hawk project will have the potential to generate 2.5 gigawatts when fully developed. About a quarter of that capacity is expected to be online by 2026 and the rest by 2030.

Last week, BOEM announced two larger lease locations off the coast of North Carolina. They are more than 1 million hectares in total. It’s not clear whether they can be offered before July 1, when a 10-year ban goes into effect.

In late 2020, former President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring a 10-year moratorium on offshore energy development along the southeast coast, including North Carolina. No new leases can be issued. It applies to renewable energy as well as to oil and gas. Some environmental advocates are urging Congress to take action to overturn the moratorium.

D-North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper added his voice to that chorus on Thursday.

The governor calls the new leases “an important step toward the future of clean energy in North Carolina,” said Cooper spokesman Jordan Monaghan: energy, economic growth and job creation.”

Meanwhile, environmental lawyers applauded the new leases.

“The importance of this auction cannot be overstated,” said Erin Carey, the director of coastal programs for the NC Sierra Club. “At a time when our country is grappling with volatility and skyrocketing prices in fossil fuel supply and demand, it is more important than ever that we look to a future of clean energy independence.”

According to the Sierra Club, developing North Carolina’s offshore wind potential could bring up to $4.3 billion in state investment, including jobs and industrial infrastructure.

Duke’s lease is likely to play a key role in the proposed plan to reduce carbon emissions. The plan is required by the state’s bipartisan utility bill, House Bill 951, passed last year. Duke is expected to file an early draft of its plan with the NC Utilities Commission Monday.

“Securing this lease creates optionality for future offshore wind energy if the North Carolina Utilities Commission determines it is part of the cheapest path to achieving a 70% CO2 reduction by 2030 and net-zero by 2050,” said Stephen De May , President of North Carolina for Duke.

“We are looking forward to [Duke] including significant wind resources in their proposed carbon plan Monday and ensuring clean, renewable energy comes to North Carolina’s taxpayers, especially those who are disproportionately affected by their coal and gas pollution, namely communities of color,” said Montravias King, clean energy director for the NC League of Conservation Voters.

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