The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has identified three areas off the coast of North Carolina that are favorable for wind energy facilities: Wilmington-West Wind Energy Area, Wilmington-East Wind Energy Area, and Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area. The goal of this analysis is to determine whether offshore wind energy should be encouraged off the coast of North Carolina. The legislative and regulatory processes involved are discussed as well as the steps required for implementation. The analysis will cover the environmental impacts, economic feasibility, and political feasibility of the proposed projects. Overcoming these barriers, or providing evidence that they are not barriers, is important in determining whether offshore wind energy is beneficial to North Carolina.
The environmental impacts of this project is most severe during site assessment and construction phases. Impacts will be mitigated as much as possible. Careful site selection and thorough assessment of the area prior to construction are necessary to ensure minimal impacts. The operational phase is most dangerous to birds, though they have been shown to avoid the area. For the most part the operation phase is low impact and may provide more benefits in the form of habitat for marine organisms, fish, and birds.
The economic analysis is a combination of a Cost Benefit Analysis and a Cost Effectiveness analysis. The results from the CBAs indicate that the project has a positive outcome over the 30 year period when no disaster and the social discount rate (3%) is used. However, with any type of disaster, or the use of the U.S. ACE 7% discount rate, this project is not economically viable. Wind has the highest levelized cost amongst the evaluated energy sources and it has a significantly lower capacity factor resulting in less energy generated than traditional fuels like coal and natural gas. Although wind has a relatively high capacity factor amongst the renewable energy sources, it is still less than half that of coal or natural gas. The high levelized cost of wind power does not make it an attractive renewable energy source outright, despite the lack of fuel and low maintenance costs. Both the results of the CBA and the CEA will be taken into account for the economic recommendation of this report.
The political feasibility study attempted to synthesize public and political attitudes toward offshore wind energy projects. The majority of elected officials were unsure in their of support offshore wind energy for North Carolina or have not provided a stance on the issue. Those who are unsure, are mainly concerned with viability, any potential negative effects to the tourism industry, and the costs of implementing the project. Many officials feel that more extensive analysis needs to be conducted. The majority of the public in the Wilmington, Kitty Hawk, and Carolina Shores areas support offshore wind energy. Few people have outright opposed the project, but simply want to express concerns about possible environmental damage during the construction and development of the offshore wind facilities. Supporters in these coastal communities say the latest developments in the process are a step in the right direction by cutting carbon emissions and providing power with a renewable energy source. However, others are concerned about the impacts offshore wind could have on the environment and the economies of the affected beach communities. The main concerns are aesthetics, potential negative effects to tourism, expense and long-term maintenance. There is broad agreement that tourism is a major driver of North Carolina’s coastal economies and it needs to be protected
With regard to the original survey distributed for this analysis, the majority of survey takers expressed support for offshore wind energy in North Carolina. However, results differ slightly when filtering results to only include answers of respondents who own a house at the beach in North Carolina. These respondents show less support than the other respondents and are much more concerned with the associated aesthetic issues. All respondents placed importance on fact that this renewable energy source would be better for the coastal environments of North Carolina.