N.C. panel touts wind energy use

rchristensen@newsobserver.comFebruary 9, 2012 

— A new study released Wednesday by Gov. Bev Perdue said North Carolina had the largest offshore wind resource on the East Coast and that the state should work with industry to develop the wind energy industry.

The 15-member panel said wind energy along North Carolina's coast and sounds offered significant opportunities for renewable energy and for job creation.

"North Carolina's extensive coastline and large offshore wind resources appear to make it a prime area for offshore-wind development," the panel said.

The panel said there are areas off the North Carolina coast suited for wind farms that could generate a yearly average of 20,000 megawatts of power. The report said producing wind energy is expensive and would increase the cost to ratepayers in the short term but would provide long-term benefits in producing pollution-free energy.

The report comes as three wind farms have been proposed along the North Carolina coast.

Iberdrola proposes a 300 megawatt "Desert Wind" project near Elizabeth City, but no utility has been willing to commit to buy the power. Invenergy proposes an 80-megawatt project in Beaufort County near the Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge. The project is delayed over concerns about migrating snow birds being killed. Apex Wind proposes an offshore project that is awaiting word on which federal water parcels can be used for wind farms.

The report recommended several laws and rules to encourage offshore wind development, efforts by the state to work with developers to provide energy transmission infrastructure, and state tax credits and incentives to locate a cluster of manufacturing to provide wind energy hardware and expertise.

The report won praise from the N.C. Sierra Club.

"We look forward to working with the legislature to make the possibility of thousands of jobs and the clean renewable energy the offshore wind industry would bring to our state a reality," said Will Morgan, a Sierra Club spokesman. "It's becoming clear that offshore wind is a better option than drilling off our coast."

The report is the part of the recommendations of what came to be known the Governor's Scientific Advisory Panel on Offshore Energy that was formed by Perdue in September 2009.

The panel grew out of the 2008 governor's race, in which offshore oil and gas exploration became an issue, with Republican candidate Pat McCrory voicing strong support and Perdue saying she would study it.

A draft of the report released in September laid out the pros and cons of offshore exploration for oil and gas but took no stance. Perdue said at the time of the release that she leaned toward exploration if carefully done.

The federal government, not the states, is the key decider in offshore exploration beyond the state's three-mile territorial jurisdiction, where most of the oil and gas would likely be found.

The study found that previous exploration indicated there were limited resources off the North Carolina coast but that further exploration might find larger reserves.

Perdue said Thursday that if exploration were conducted, she hoped Congress would make sure North Carolina gets a fair share of revenues from oil and gas extracted off its coast.

Staff writer John Murawski contributed.

Christensen: 919-829-4532

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