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Wind Turbines Off NC Coast One Step Closer

Offshore wind is one step closer to NC's coast.
BOEM identified three wind-energy areas off the NC coast.
Credit BOEM
BOEM identified three wind-energy areas off the NC coast.

North Carolina is one step closer to offshore wind turbines. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management - the federal agency that supervises offshore wind power development as well as offshore oil drilling - announced earlier today the completion of an environmental review of three potential sites off the North Carolina coast.

BOEM found no significant environmental or socioeconomic issues that should stop the issuing of wind energy leases.

“After considering public input and conducting a thorough environmental review, we believe that wind leasing and site characterization activities can be done in a manner that will continue to allow for other uses, and be compatible with the environment,” said BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper in a release.

One of the sites is near Kitty Hawk. The other two are near Wilmington and Bald Head Island.

Governor Pat McCrory has stated support for offshore wind development in the past, but has said recently that wind turbines should be further from shore.

Last February, Donald van der Vaart, the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, sent a letter to BOEM requesting that wind farms be sited at least 24 miles from shore, stating that turbines that were closer would hurt tourism. Two of the three proposed sites fall within that range.

In a 2012 study, BOEM found that wind turbines located 20 miles from shore would be visible one day out of five from the beach – and less frequently in the summer.

wind turbine
Credit Garden State Energy
An illustration of typical wind turbines as seen from two to 20 miles from shore.

The further a wind farm is from shore, the more expensive it is to build and maintain.

BOEM says today’s announcement is part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution and develop domestic clean energy sources.

The next step is a meeting of the North Carolina Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force next month, followed by BOEM publishing a “proposed sale notice” for the leases.

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Supervising Editor for Politics and Education. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.
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