Obama puts offshore North Carolina on wind energy map

Administration puts energy footprint into the future with a March lease sale.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Jan. 18, 2017 at 5:51 AM
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Thousands of acres offshore North Carolina are set aside for potential wind energy in one of the final moves under the Obama presidency, the government said.

"This is a significant milestone for North Carolina and our country as we continue to make progress on diversifying our nation's energy portfolio," Walter Cruickshank, the acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said in a statement.

Acting under a climate action plan adopted by President Barack Obama, the BOEM said it was setting aside 122,405 acres offshore North Carolina for a March 16 lease for wind energy developers. The lease area in question begins about 24 nautical miles off the coast of Kitty Hawk, N.C.

The offshore wind energy industry is in its infancy in the United States, but it already supplies Europe with more than 11,000 megawatts of power. Germany and Britain are among the world leaders in offshore wind energy.

Deepwater Wind operates the only commercial offshore wind energy facility in the United States, the Block Island facility off the coast of Rhode Island. To date, the BOEM has held six lease sales for wind energy development, bringing in more than $58 million in high bids so far.

The North Carolina initiative follows an independent move by the state government in New York to advance wind energy development. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the Long Island Port Authority to approve a 90 megawatt offshore wind farm, which will be the nation's biggest once in service. Addressing concerns by those fretting over coastal aesthetics, the governor said the project will not be visible from shore.

"The [North Carolina] lease sale underscores the growing market demand for renewable energy and strong industry interest in meeting that demand," outgoing Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement.

President-elect Donald Trump has put forward an energy policy that's more in favor of the fossil fuels industry, appointing former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state. According to a review of federal data, the American Wind Energy Association estimates more people in the United States work in the wind energy sector than in nuclear, coal, natural gas or hydroelectric power plants.

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