UNC-Chapel Hill's planned $1 million study of offshore wind energy potential will get a $300,000 gust from Progress Energy.
The UNC study, to be completed over three years, is expected to be the most comprehensive analysis of wind power potential on the state's ocean waters.
The area to be studied would feed directly into Progress Energy's service area in coastal North Carolina. Raleigh-based Progress would be the likely candidate to buy any electricity that's produced by wind power in the sounds and off the coast. If other power companies contract to purchase the electricity, it would be transported inland over Progress Energy's transmission system.
Progress's contribution matches a $300,000 stimulus grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Areas off the coast of this state are thought to contain some of the best wind energy resources in the nation. However, building hurricane-proof wind turbines miles offshore raises logistical, environmental and financial issues.
Progress spokesman Scott Sutton said the study would fill in the blanks left open by a preliminary study done by UNC and would develop an atmospheric modeling system to improve wind forecasting capabilities.
UNC's Department of Marine Sciences conducted a preliminary wind analysis in 2009. Charlotte-based Duke Energy, a participant in that project, plans to install one to three wind turbines in the Pamlico Sound for continued testing.
The planned Duke wind turbines, from 3 megawatts to 5 megawatts, would be paid for by the company. The tips of the blades would extend more than twice as high above the water as the 208-foot-tall Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Staff writer John Murawski