North Carolinians love the coast for its beaches,
but that’s not all our shores are good for. Last week, Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order that will bolster the state’s efforts to expand offshore wind power production. 

The order establishes a goal of producing 2.8 gigawatts of wind power by 2030 and 8 GW by the start of the following decade. This energy would power roughly 2.3 million homes by 2040.

“Offshore wind power will help North Carolina create jobs and generate economic development while helping us transition to a clean energy economy,” Gov. Cooper said in a press statement. “North Carolina’s national leadership in clean energy and manufacturing plus our highly trained workforce create a strong business environment for offshore wind supply chain and manufacturing companies.”

North Carolina—and the Triangle—could attract much of the projected $100 billion national offshore wind market. The state has more offshore wind potential than any other along the Atlantic coast, according to a 2017 U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Lab report. Raleigh and Onslow Bay are some of the most promising locations for offshore wind energy, according to a 2009 study conducted by researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill.  

The order also directs various state agencies to create new positions related to the offshore wind plan. The Department of Commerce must name a clean energy economic development coordinator and establish the North Carolina Taskforce for Offshore Wind Economic Resource Strategies (NC TOWERS). The Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs must designate offshore wind coordinators and take steps to support energy development. A North Carolina Offshore Wind Interagency Workgroup must also meet quarterly to ensure offshore wind activities are well coordinated among leadership in relevant agencies.

A May report from the state commerce department forecasts that North Carolina could address and supply equipment for the entire East coast offshore wind market—not just projects directly off North Carolina’s coast. The East coast will likely see a total offshore wind capacity exceeding 40 GW by 2035. 

North Carolina is well positioned to address this demand due to its multiple port and water-front properties, according to the report, which was conducted by BVG Associates, a consulting company with extensive wind energy experience. The state’s integrated, up-to-date, and high-capacity transport system also includes rail, road, and both inland and coastal waterways that connect easily to adjoining states and the coastline.  

Reaching the level of capacity projected by BVG will require a manufacturing ecosystem to supply component parts for at least two dozen utility-scale wind farms. This  means more jobs for North Carolinians. 

North Carolina already features one approved Wind Energy Area (WEA) under lease for development. The Kitty Hawk WEA is projected to potentially support 2,500 megawatts of energy—enough to power approximately 700,000 homes. This is slightly under a fifth of all households in the state. 

The state’s new commitments to offshore wind energy will create jobs in a variety of sectors, officials say, while helping achieve the North Carolina Clean Energy Plan’s goals, which include a 70 percent reduction in power sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. 

“This coordinated approach to developing our offshore wind supply chain will bring new jobs to North Carolina for generations to come,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders in a press release. “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.” 

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