Previously reported – July 2021
Wind Energy Area Review –
How NC’s wind energy plans could be thwarted by Brunswick County
Brunswick County beach towns that thrive on tourism are banding together to oppose the installation of wind turbines off their shores. In the last few months Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Caswell Beach, and the Village of Bald Head Island have all passed resolutions taking issue with wind turbines that could be seen from their beaches, asking for them to be positioned at least 24 nautical miles away. Oak Island Mayor Ken Thomas said the town will be working on a similar ordinance soon. “I’m not against wind energy, or solar or any other kind of energy, but it doesn’t need to be stuck in your face,” Thomas said. “You didn’t buy a vacation home at the beach to look at a wind turbine. They need to be off in the ocean where we don’t see them.” While each of the resolutions cited the effect the turbines would have on tourism and were not opposed to wind energy, if the turbines are forced to be at least 24 nautical miles off the coast, it could effectively shut down the prospects for new offshore wind energy in North Carolina. Last month, Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order aimed at accelerating wind energy production off the North Carolina coast before a federal moratorium prohibiting offshore leasing for energy production takes effect in July 2022. The order sets a goal for the state to develop 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind energy resources by 2030 and 8 gigawatts by 2040. In order for the state to get more offshore leases in place before the moratorium takes effect, a bi-partisan group of N.C. lawmakers wrote a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management urging the federal agency to “expeditiously” begin leasing existing wind energy areas. “We respectfully urge the BOEM to take swift action to hold lease sales for two of our existing WEAs – Wilmington East and Wilmington West – so that lease agreements can be executed in advance of the July 1 deadline,” the letter read. The Wilmington West wind energy area consists of about 51,595 acres starting around 11.5 nautical miles from shore, while the Wilmington East area starts 15.5 miles from shore and is about 133,590 acres. In order to get leases for wind energy production to take effect before the moratorium, the state would likely have to use the two designated wind energy area off the coast of Brunswick County, only a small sliver of which is outside of 24 nautical miles. Next week the Bureau of Energy Management will meet with stakeholders to discuss their approach for possible leasing in the area. The agency has granted other jurisdictions, like the state of Virginia, a 24 nautical mile buffer from the shore. “I think we need to go on record as having concerns,” Ocean Isle Beach Mayor Debbie Smith said at their meeting passing the wind turbine resolution. “And we need to follow up and keep that pressure if it has any meaning whatsoever.”
Read more » click here
Offshore wind turbines: not in my backyard
Even as Gov. Roy Cooper sets ambitious goals for electricity production from green sources like wind energy, a growing contingent of coastal communities are pushing back with “not in my backyard” concerns. The complicated, long-running story of wind energy off the Carolinas goes back to 2014 when the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) first laid it on the table. Now, the effort faces a July 2022 deadline before all offshore energy leases – including oil, natural gas and wind – will be banned in the Atlantic Ocean. BOEM has proposed two areas off Brunswick County for wind turbine leasing by private companies. The areas account for shipping, military interests, fishing, water depth, average wind speeds and proximity to the electric grid, among other factors. Areas off of Brunswick and Horry, South Carolina counties are called Wilmington West (52,000 acres) and Wilmington East (134,000 acres). BOEM has announced no specific timeline for offering leases for those areas. For administrative purposes, they are grouped with other areas off the South Carolina coast. The East area starts slightly more than 11 nautical miles offshore; the West area begins 15.5 nautical miles off the Brunswick coast. The concept of limiting proximity of turbines to the shore started with the 70-mile-long Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which borders a proposed offshore lease area called Kitty Hawk. Managers of the federal lands asked that wind turbines be at least 24 nautical miles offshore to preserve the viewshed of the first federally protected seashore in the United States. Development is not allowed in the seashore, except for established municipalities and historic sites, access areas and a few minimal facilities, such as restrooms and trash containers. Leaders of village council at Bald Head Island picked up on that number, and council passed a resolution requesting the same 24-mile buffer zone and Ocean Isle Beach, Sunset Beach and Caswell Beach have passed similar resolutions. The Commonwealth of Virginia has made a parallel request. Oak Island Mayor Ken Thomas said his town council will also soon be asked to consider the measure. “I am in favor of wind power,” Thomas said. “I just don’t want to see it or hear it from the beach. I don’t know what the right number is; I just don’t want to see or hear them.”
More wind power
Last month, Gov. Cooper issued an executive order calling for the state to invest more in wind energy and move away from fossil fuels for electricity. “Offshore wind power will help North Carolina create jobs and generate economic development while helping us transition to a clean energy economy,” Cooper said in a prepared 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.” The order establishes offshore wind development goals of 2.8 gigawatts off the North Carolina coast by 2030 and 8 GW by 2040. Achieving these goals will power roughly 2.3 million homes by 2040. In addition to creating economic benefits across North Carolina, the development will help achieve the North Carolina Clean Energy Plan goal of a 70-percent reduction in power sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050, the governor stated. “This coordinated approach to developing our offshore wind supply chain will bring new jobs to North Carolina for generations to come,” state Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders said in a prepared statement. “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, not just for projects directly off the state’s coast.
A bipartisan group of North Carolina U.S. representatives endorsed federal efforts to develop offshore wind energy. Seven members of Congress – more than half the delegation – stated in April they wanted to act quickly and avoid a decade-long moratorium on new wind energy leases set to begin July 2022. Signers included U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, whose 7th District includes Brunswick and New Hanover counties. The letter from two Republicans and five Democrats acknowledges a recent study commissioned by the N.C. Department of Commerce that found tremendous potential for growth in offshore wind generation. The study stated, in part, that North Carolina could generate far more energy than the state is projected to use in 2035 and could capture future investments exceeding $100-billion in the wind energy business. The study, by industry consultants and N.C. State University, details how North Carolina’s existing ports and other infrastructure could support expansion of wind energy and provides a blueprint for long-term improvements. The letter from the Congress members asks BOEM to promptly and responsibly advance existing lease areas and identify new ones, if possible. “The way forward is, as Rep. Rouzer says, ‘All of the above’ with one caveat. Fossil fuels are a dead end and we need to leave that street as quickly as we can. Down the road the bridge is out,” said Pete Key, president of Brunswick Environmental Action Team. “I again applaud Governor Cooper’s bold leadership in protecting our planet,” said Randy Sturgill, field representative for Oceana, the largest ocean environmental group in the world. “This North Carolina executive order will help move forward the development of offshore wind in North Carolina. Offshore wind should be part of the climate solution and can be done in a responsible manner that ensures protections for critically endangered species like the North Atlantic right whale.”
Read more » click here
Previously reported – August 2021
Prospect of visible ocean wind farms unites Brunswick towns in opposition
The opposition movement began earlier this summer in Bald Head Island. The village council approved a resolution in May that makes it clear any efforts to place wind farms within the island’s viewshed — the territory of ocean in which the turbines could be seen from the beach, or the Old Baldy lighthouse — will be met with a fight. The campaign spread to neighboring coastal towns, with Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach passing similar resolutions in July. With the tourism economy in mind, beach-town politicians across Brunswick County feared if an offshore wind farm were visible from the shoreline, it would deter would-be beachgoers and corrupt views. As stated in the Bald Head resolution: “Such a change would represent for us the most destructive commitment of ocean resources that we have ever heard proposed in North Carolina — one that could irreversibly damage the natural environment and resources that we cherish and that drive our economy.” The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners added to the chorus Monday, approving a resolution that says allowing wind farms within 24 nautical miles of the coast would damage tourism and the county’s economy by “transforming open ocean views to views of massive industrial machinery.” Meanwhile, the federal government is ramping up plans for the renewable energy source in waters offshore of the east coast. Last week the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) began the process of kickstarting an environmental review for a “wind lease” in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Outer Banks. Wind developers pay the bureau for exclusive rights to huge chunks of ocean territory in cases like this where they’re looking to install offshore energy sources. North Carolina only has jurisdiction for 3 miles beyond the coastline. The Kitty Hawk wind farm will consist of up to 69 wind turbine generators if approved; it’s part of the Biden administration’s effort to create 80,000 jobs through the development of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030. BOEM also has its sights on two other portions of ocean domain in the vicinity of North Carolina — one called the “Wilmington East” wind energy area and the other called “Wilmington West.” The two zones identified by the federal government as suitable territories for offshore wind farms. Wilmington East (Blue) starts approximately 15 miles south of Bald Head Island. The rub for the coastal towns of Brunswick County is that Kitty Hawk’s wind farm was buffered at least 24 nautical miles out into the ocean at its closest point to shore. In most places, it is at a far greater distance, making it impossible for locals and Outer Banks tourists to see the turbines from the coast. The two wind energy areas offshore of Brunswick County, however, are a different scene. The Wilmington West area begins about 10 nautical miles from shore, and the Wilmington East area starts about 15 nautical miles south of Bald Head Island. “I think we need to go on record as having concerns,” Ocean Isle Beach Mayor Debbie Smith said at a July board of commissioners meeting when the resolution was discussed. “And we need to follow up and keep that pressure.” BOEM is in the planning stages for potentially issuing new leases offshore of the Carolinas. In July the bureau hosted a task force meeting with intergovernmental stakeholders. The Wilmington East area, in particular, is being considered for a lease sale, and BOEM is also seeking comment on whether to consider Wilmington West for a lease sale. BOEM anticipates holding an auction for an offshore lease in the Carolina region next year, according to a bureau spokesperson. The push from BOEM to get new projects like Kitty Hawk off the ground dovetails with Gov. Roy Cooper’s intentions. He signed an executive order in June with the goal of making N.C. a state friendly to wind farm development. It targets development of 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind energy resources by 2030 and 8 gigawatts by 2040. “Offshore wind power will create jobs and help the state develop a clean energy economy,” a spokesperson for Cooper wrote in an email. “Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 218 sets a vision for offshore wind development to move the state to a clean energy future and increase supply chain and manufacturing opportunities.”
Read more » click here
County pushes back on offshore wind turbines
Brunswick County Commissioners want any offshore wind turbines built off of local beaches to be at least 24 nautical miles away, so they don’t impact tourism and the view of the coast. Commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution Monday in opposition to any wind energy leases within 24 nautical miles of North Carolina’s shoreline. They want the same protections the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has established for the State of Virginia and other areas of coastal North Carolina. BOEM established a 24 nautical mile no-leasing buffer for Virginia’s coast and the Kitty Hawk area in North Carolina, plus a 33.7 nautical mile buffer to protect the Bodie Island Lighthouse. “Wind turbines located within the viewshed of Brunswick County beaches would damage tourism and the economy of the county by transforming open ocean views to views of massive industrial machinery,” the resolution adopted Monday states. It adds, “Such a change would represent a destructive commitment of ocean resources that could irreversibly damage the natural environment and resources that drive our economy.” BOEM has proposed two areas off Brunswick County for wind turbine leasing by private companies. Areas off of Brunswick and Horry (South Carolina) counties are called Wilmington West (52,000 acres) and Wilmington East (134,000 acres). There is no timeline for offering leases for these areas. The East area starts slightly more than 11 nautical miles offshore; the West area begins 15.5 nautical miles off the Brunswick coast. Commissioners asked staff Monday to send the resolutions to Brunswick County municipalities. Towns that have adopted similar resolutions include Bald Head Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Sunset Beach and Caswell Beach. Oak Island is also expected to consider the matter at an upcoming meeting. Gov. Roy Cooper last month issued an executive order calling for the state to invest more in wind energy and move away from fossil fuels for electricity. Some members of Congress have also stated they want to act quickly and avoid a decade-long moratorium on new wind energy leases set to begin in July 2022. The county’s resolution states BOEM “has not analyzed the visual impacts of wind turbines on Brunswick County and will likely not do so until it is too late to reasonably do anything about wind turbine distance from shore.” It states the county is committed to challenge any BOEM issuance of wind energy leases within the visual impact area. It calls on Gov. Cooper, N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Elizabeth Biser, and the N.C. General Assembly to protect the state’s ocean viewshed from leases within 24 nautical miles off the shore.
Read more » click here
BOEM seeks comment on more NC, SC wind leasing options
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is considering a lease sale for the Wilmington East Wind Energy Area, or WEA, offshore of the North Carolina-South Carolina border. BOEM is preparing a supplemental environmental assessment to consider the additional wind leasing options for the area. The agency said Friday it will accept comment for the next 30 days ending at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 12. To comment and for a copy of the 2015 environmental assessment, visit https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/north-carolina-activities. “Environmental reviews are essential to a strong resource management program,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton in a statement. “At BOEM, scientific based decision-making remains a top priority and will inform the path forward offshore the Carolinas. We welcome and appreciate your input into this process.” The supplemental assessment is to consider new information relevant to environmental considerations that were not available when BOEM published the Commercial Wind Lease Issuance and Site Assessment Activities on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf Offshore North Carolina – Revised Environmental Assessment in 2015. As part of this public process, BOEM said it is seeking input on additional information, issues and alternatives to be considered in the supplemental assessment. BOEM’s 2015 assessment considered the lease sale of the Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area, as well as the Wilmington East and West WEAs. Officials said that BOEM found at the time that no reasonably foreseeable significant impacts were expected as a result of the proposed lease sales or any of the alternatives in the environmental assessment. BOEM held in 2017 an auction for the Kitty Hawk WEA and is now considering a lease sale for the Wilmington East WEA. The supplemental environmental review evaluates new circumstances and information relevant to reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts that would occur from site characterization activities such as shallow hazards, surveys of the lease area and potential cable routes as well as site assessment activities including installation and operation of meteorological buoys associated with issuing wind energy leases in the Wilmington East WEA. Some of the new information includes a recent marine cultural resources survey, changes in the status of some Endangered Species Act-listed species, the listing of new species, and the designation of critical habitat for the North Atlantic right whale.
Read more » click here
Previously reported – September 2021
Offshore North Carolina Visualization Study
During BOEM’s North Carolina offshore wind planning process, the need for accurate representations of offshore wind turbines to help evaluate potential visual impacts became apparent.
In cooperation with the National Park Service, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) contracted with Mangi Environmental Group and its subcontractors, T.J. Boyle Associates and LPES, Inc., to undertake a visualization study. This effort involved the creation and development of photo documentation, photomontages, and videos to provide an accurate representation of the appearance of offshore wind facilities from a variety of locations along the coast of North Carolina.
In total, 234 offshore wind turbine simulations were created. Each simulation consists of an array configuration of 200 turbines and utilizes 1,000-meter turbine spacing.
The simulations included:
- 18 different locations (from Corolla Lighthouse to Sunset Beach);
- Four lighting conditions (morning, afternoon, starlit night, and misty nights);
- Three distances (10, 15, and 20 nautical miles [nm] from shore); and
- Two turbine models (Siemens 3.6 MW and Vestas 7 MW).
An overview location map of this information can be found here
This effort also included an analysis of the meteorological conditions along the coast of North Carolina. This analysis was an integral part of the study. The report can be found here.
A presentation outlining the technical aspects of the study can be found here.
Photo and Video Simulations:
Below are two matrices with links to the photo simulations and the 30-second video simulations. The matrices show each simulation’s viewing location, distance from the viewing location, the lighting condition, and the turbine type simulated.
Matrix of Photo Simulations Conducted In North Carolina
017 Holden Beach – Mockup photographs of wind farms at various distances
Read more » click here
Brunswick officials’ worries over offshore wind unresolved
Brunswick County beach towns are back to square one in a push to ensure potential offshore wind farms are out of the line of sight from shore. “Nothing has changed,” said Village of Bald Head Island Councilor Peter Quinn. “We’re still in the exact same situation. Nothing has been addressed.” The village council first adopted a resolution in 2015 urging the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, to establish a buffer for offshore wind energy leases no closer than 24 nautical miles, or about 27 miles, off North Carolina’s southern coast. In May, councilors once again passed a similar resolution, a move that triggered other beach towns in the county, including Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Caswell Beach, most recently, Oak Island, and the county board of commissioners to follow suit. As opposition mounts along North Carolina’s southernmost coast to wind turbines within the viewshed, or line of sight from shore, the federal government is ramping up proposed plans for what could be the first wind energy farms off the state’s coast. BOEM earlier this month began hosting a series of virtual public meetings as part of the agency’s environmental review of the proposed project’s construction and operations plans. In all, three wind energy areas, or WEAs, spanning more than 307,000 acres have been identified off the state’s coast for potential commercial wind energy development. These areas include the Kitty Hawk WEA, Wilmington West WEA and Wilmington East WEA, the latter two of which are off Brunswick County’s ocean shoreline. BOEM has established a 24-nautical-mile no-leasing buffer for Virginia and the Kitty Hawk WEA. A 33.7 nautical mile no-leasing buffer has been established to protect the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Meanwhile, the proposed lease sites offshore of Brunswick County are considerably closer to the coast, raising concerns about how the potential for hundreds of wind turbines towering over the ocean and changing the view of the horizon from shore might impact, among other things, tourism. As it stands, the closest border of the Wilmington West WEA is 10 nautical miles from shore. The Wilmington East WEA would be as close as about 15 miles from Bald Head Island. John Filostrat, director of public affairs of BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico region, said in an email response to Coastal Review that BOEM is preparing a proposed sale notice that will identify potential lease areas in the Wilmington East area. A draft of the proposed sale was discussed in July at a meeting of the Regional Carolina Long Bay Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force. “BOEM anticipates holding an auction in the Carolina Long Bay region next year,” Filostrat said in the email. “Any potential lease sale would be informed by science and other information collected from the Carolina Long Bay Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, ocean users, and key stakeholders. He explained that BOEM’s environmental review process includes potential impacts of wind turbines within viewsheds. “Visual impacts are one of many resources that BOEM evaluates through its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process,” he said. “BOEM requires all offshore wind project proposals (as detailed in an offshore wind developer’s Construction and Operations Plan) to include viewshed mapping, photographic and video simulations, and field inventory techniques, as appropriate, so that BOEM can determine, with reasonable accuracy, the visibility of the proposed project from shore. Simulations should illustrate sensitive and scenic viewpoints.” Property owners and visitors to Block Island, a small island a little more than 10 miles south of mainland Rhode Island, have a front-row view of the first commercial offshore wind farm in the United States. The 840-foot-tall turbines are little more than 3½ miles offshore. “We’re right at ground zero,” said Block Island property owner Rosemarie Ives. The 30-megawatt wind farm is operated by Orstead, a Denmark-based company. The wind farm’s five turbines became operational in December 2016. They generate enough energy to power 17,000 homes, according to Orstead. Block Island, once powered by five diesel generators, is now powered entirely by offshore wind, according to information provided on the company’s website. The island’s local government board, the New Shoreham Town Council, supported the project. The response among property owners – there are about 1,000 year-round residents on the island – and tourists have been a mixed bag. Ives and her husband were part of a handful of property owners, including a family on the mainland, thrust into the spotlight as they fought the project. Three months out of the year, they leave their home on the West Coast to vacation at the cottage, which sits atop the island’s bluffs, offering a panoramic view from south to east. During a recent telephone interview, Ives described the scene from the cottage, one that has been in her husband’s family since 1924. “We get to see all five of (the turbines) and they’re not moving one inch today because there’s absolutely no wind,” she said. “I remember the first time we came here in 1967 and I thought, oh my God, this is like nothing else. I think it was almost hypnotizing. It used to be quite majestic. It’s not the same.” Now, the dark sky that stretched over the ocean is peppered with blinking lights on the turbines. “You’re not having the experience of seeing the ocean rise above,” she said. “There’s something spiritual, magical about looking out and seeing the ocean and seeing the sky and now you’re seeing these turbines that are right there.” She describes the process for which the wind farm was approved “complex” and “convoluted,” one that she said inflates the project’s touted benefits. Ives is a former mayor of Redmond, Washington, for 16 years, to be exact. She chaired the U.S. Conference of Mayors Sustainability Task Force, and was an initial signatory of the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. She refers to her background with an emphasis that she’s not anti-renewable energy. “I was green way, way befre it was politically correct,” she said. There’s a seemingly similar sentiment among those in Brunswick County asking for the buffer. When the Holden Beach Property Owners Association adopted in 2018 a resolution asking BOEM for the buffer, its members were intent on making sure it was not worded in a way that could be construed as anti-renewable energy. “We debated all that and tweaked the wording to make sure we didn’t across as anti-wind,” said Tom Meyers, the association’s president. “We’ve been mostly focused on the view from the beach strand. It’s the lights as much as what we’ll see in the day. We’re all on the same page. When you go out to the ocean and you look out at the night you just want to see the sky. I really wish the town would pass a resolution and take a stand here. Once you’re changing the view from the beach you’re impacting a lot.”
Read more » click here
Offshore wind in NC is focus of new coalition
A new coalition of organizations that work to protect North Carolina’s environment is turning its attention to offshore wind. The Offshore Wind for North Carolina coalition, or OSW4NC, aims to advance offshore wind in North Carolina, Southeastern Wind Coalition announced Tuesday. The coalition intends to engage residents, businesses, and state and federal leaders to encourage the opportunities that offshore wind presents, “and urge state and federal governments to move forward with policies necessary to reap the full suite of benefits of its offshore wind potential,” officials said. “This includes removing market barriers to offshore wind power, evaluating future wind energy areas off North Carolina’s coast, and ensuring offshore wind is developed in an environmentally responsible manner.” Founding organizations include Audubon North Carolina, the Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, the Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Entrepreneurs, the North Carolina Coastal Federation, the North Carolina Conservation Network, the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, Sierra Club North Carolina and the Southeastern Wind Coalition. OSW4NC supports the offshore wind targets Gov. Roy Cooper established through Executive Order 218, including offshore wind energy targets of 2.8-gigawatts by 2030 and 8.0-gigawatts by 2040. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates North Carolina has the highest technical potential for offshore wind generation among Atlantic coast states, officials with Southeastern Wind Coalition said.
Read more » click here
Previously reported – October 2021
Biden Administration Plans Wind Farms Along Nearly the Entire U.S. Coastline
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced that her agency will formally begin the process of identifying federal waters to lease to wind developers by 2025.
Speaking at a wind power industry conference in Boston, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said that her agency will begin to identify, demarcate, and hope to eventually lease federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Maine and off the coasts of the Mid-Atlantic States, North Carolina and South Carolina, California, and Oregon, to wind power developers by 2025. The announcement came months after the Biden administration approved the nation’s first major commercial offshore wind farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and began reviewing a dozen other potential offshore wind projects along the East Coast. On the West Coast, the administration has approved opening up two areas off the shores of Central and Northern California for commercial wind power development. Taken together, the actions represent the most forceful push ever by federal government to promote offshore wind development. “The Interior Department is laying out an ambitious road map as we advance the administration’s plans to confront climate change, create good-paying jobs, and accelerate the nation’s transition to a cleaner energy future,” said Ms. Haaland. “This timetable provides two crucial ingredients for success: increased certainty and transparency. Together, we will meet our clean energy goals while addressing the needs of other ocean users and potentially impacted communities.”
Read more » click here