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Offshore wind projected to bring at least 14,000 jobs to North Carolina

A support vessel is seen next to a massive wind turbine at the Walney Extension offshore wind farm operated by the Orsted energy company off Britain's west coast on Sept. 5.
Phil Noble
A support vessel is seen next to a massive wind turbine at the Walney Extension offshore wind farm operated by the Orsted energy company off Britain's west coast on Sept. 5.

The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association held a forum in Wilmington this week to discuss the economic impact of two offshore wind projects coming to the state.

The two proposed offshore wind projects in North Carolina are expected to bring between 14,000 and 28,000 jobs during the construction phase. They're located at the northern and southern ends of the state, with the Kittyhawk project to the north split between North Carolina and Virginia.

During a North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association forum about offshore wind, advocates for green energy spoke about the economic benefits and timeline for the projects.

The Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area will also bring an expected 800 long-term jobs to the two states after construction. That project is several years further along than the Wilmington East Wind Energy Area, with construction likely to start in late 2023 or early 2024, and operations to begin in 2026. Wilmington's project likely won't start construction until 2028, although it was leased earlier this year.

Wilmington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Natalie English said the project will be a boon for economic development, with 1,000 to 2,500 jobs for locals after construction is complete.

“There will be high school graduates all the way to doctoral degree holders that will be able to find employment in this work," she said.

The Wilmington East Wind Energy Area is expected to generate enough energy to power half a million homes once it's up and running. Both projects will help achieve Governor Roy Cooper's clean energy goals, which include 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.

Advocates at the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association said they’d like to see more leases on other offshore wind locations. But for now, that will have to wait: there’s a Trump-era moratorium on offshore energy projects in the Southeast Atlantic. NCSEA's offshore wind expert Robert Bennett said the moratorium acts as a "hold on any new leases from the auction."

That means the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management cannot lease new offshore wind areas that it had planned. The one in Wilmington was one of the last to get leased before the 10-year moratorium came into effect.

Some advocates still home to see the moratorium overturned under the Biden administration, although it's against precedent for a president to overturn the executive directives of his predecessor.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email:
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