A federal bureau identified a 480-square mile area off North Carolina’s coast in the Atlantic Ocean for constructing offshore wind farms, a decision that sets the stage for leasing the areas to developers.
Thursday’s announced decision by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management keeps intact the same ocean lots identified in August, when the bureau stunned wind farm advocates by shrinking the wind farm zone to 480 square miles from 1,900 square miles. BOEM’s decision is part of an environmental impact assessement of wind development activities on the outer continental shelf.
One of the three approved zones is near Kill Devils Hills and Manteo; the other two are south of Wilmington and off Oak Island at the South Carolina border.
The federal bureau, part of the U.S. Department of Interior, will next hold a meeting in Wilmington on October 7 to discuss its proposed approach to leasing the ocean parcels to wind farm developers. The discussion will be held by the N.C. Renewable Energy Task Force, which includes federal, state, local and tribal officials.
BOEM’s proposed lease sale notice would be subject to public comments and revisions. The federal review of North Carolina’s offshore wind prospects lags behind Massachusetts, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, which are years ahead in the process, but have yet to begin construction of offshore wind farms.
The United States has no operating offshore wind farms but one is under construction: The Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, comprising just five turbines. The Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, which has been fought and litigated for years, is designed for 130 turbines and is currently in the financing stage.
The selection of offshore North Carolina’s wind farm ocean zones required appeasing concerns from the U.S. Coast Guard, shipping industry, marine ecologists and local town officials concerned about detrimental effects on tourism. Offshore wind turbines soar 460 feet into the air and blink in unison with red hazard lights to warn airplanes and shipping traffic.