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Wind Energy Projects Stir Up Environmental, Economic Payoffs

New offshore wind energy projects are stirring up big environmental and economic payoffs across the country. A recent U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management auction of two offshore sites in the Carolinas has sparked interest from manufacturers and businesses who want to profit while upholding new, clean sustainability standards. There is hope that the wind projects could bring up to a billion-dollar benefit to the region.

The two auctions, the first of their kind, focused on offshore sites between Wilmington, NC, and Myrtle Beach, SC. Each is monumental in scope due to its positive impact. Each project will harness clean wind power, lower the cost of power and create numerous new jobs. Both auctions sold for $315 million to TotalEnergies Renewables USA, LLC and Duke Energy.

“For the first time, the federal government used an auction system designed to spark investment directly into U.S. manufacturers, small businesses, shipbuilders, and new workforce training, accelerating development of the already-emerging domestic supply chain,” Liz Burdock, CEO and founder of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, explained. “With global demand for offshore wind soaring, the U.S. [seized] this once-in-a-generation opportunity [to begin developing] a robust domestic supply chain to secure our energy future.”

Each auction took numerous sustainable causes to heart. Both Duke Energy and TotalEnergies agreed to leases that included protecting endangered species such as certain birds and bats and entering into fair labor agreements.

The federal government worked closely with the commercial fishing industry and Native Tribes to ensure the lease would not conflict with already-in-place ocean use.

The two lease areas cover 110,000 ocean acres and will produce over a gigawatt of energy. The area is along a flat coastal shelf known as the Carolina Long Bay, which geographically lowers the cost of having to build extremely tall towers out of the sea.

“Wind and solar [are] big options for the region, and you’re seeing that expand quite a bit,” said Paul Geyes, director of Coastal Carolina University’s Burroughs and Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies. Geyes expects the project to generate numerous new jobs off-shore and in coastal towns.

The winning bid from Duke Energy is a part of the power giant’s commitment to North Carolina’s mission for decarbonization. The state’s clean energy mandate requires the electric power section to reduce carbon emissions by at least 70% by 2030.

The success of these two leases means further projects are on the way, with an initial federal wind lease sale off California expected by the end of 2022.  

“Not only is the [Carolina] sale a major milestone for our clean energy future, but the United States’ growing offshore wind energy industry presents a $109 billion revenue opportunity to businesses in the supply chain over the next decade,” said Anthony Allard, head of North America for Hitachi Energy.


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