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Duke Energy and Total Energies win leases to build offshore wind farms near Wilmington

Three of Deepwater Wind's turbines stand off Block Island, R.I. The Biden administration is pushing for a sharp increase in offshore wind energy development along the East Coast.
Michael Dwyer
Three of Deepwater Wind's turbines stand off Block Island, R.I. The Biden administration is pushing for a sharp increase in offshore wind energy development along the East Coast.

Two energy companies have won the leases to offshore wind areas near Wilmington.

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held an auction for the two lease areas. The winning bids from Duke Energy Renewables and Total Energies Renewables totaled $315 million.

“Together with an all-of-government approach, we can combat the effects of climate change while creating good-paying union jobs that can benefit underserved communities," said U.S Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a statement. "[This] lease sale is further proof that there is strong industry interest and that America’s clean energy transition is here.”

French company Total Energies also won a lease to an offshore wind area near New York in February. The company is working on offshore wind projects in several other countries, including South Korea and Taiwan.

This is the first offshore wind project for Duke Energy. The company is already working with other renewable energies, including solar power.

“Securing this lease creates optionality for future offshore wind if the North Carolina Utilities Commission determines it’s part of the least cost path to achieve 70% carbon reduction by 2030 and net-zero by 2050,” said Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president. “As we continue to assess the area and project potential, we look forward to listening and learning from diverse stakeholders and community members in the region to ensure we are being thoughtful about all aspects of the potential project.”

Under bipartisan legislation passed last October, Duke is required to reduce its carbon emissions by 70% by 2030, and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

Additionally, Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order last June establishing offshore wind development goals of 2.8 gigawatts off the North Carolina coast by 2030 and 8 gigawatts by 2040.

One offshore wind project off North Carolina's coast is already underway. Avangrid Renewables is working on the Kitty Hawk wind farm, which is estimated to start construction in 2026.

Several North Carolina environmental groups are applauding the lease sale.

"The significance of this auction cannot be overstated," said Erin Carey with the North Carolina Sierra Club. "We look forward to working with these two companies to help North Carolinians be fully involved in socially just, environmentally responsible, and economically advantageous offshore wind development in North Carolina."

"Offshore wind is inevitably going to be a large part of a carbon free generating system for the state of North Carolina, so having Duke so involved in the process makes a lot of sense," said Katharine Kollins, president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition.

BOEM estimates that offshore wind farms in these two areas could result in about 1.3 gigawatts of energy, enough to power about 500,000 homes. 

Before the leases are finalized, federal authorities will conduct an anti-competitiveness review of the auction. Duke Energy and Total Energies must also pay any balance on the winning bids and provide financial assurance to BOEM.

Once the leases are finalized, the companies still have to go through several more years of planning before construction and operations start.

Celeste Gracia covers the environment for WUNC. She has been at the station since September 2019 and started off as morning producer.
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