Away from the beach the snow falls in gentle white patterns, cushioning the sound of cars as they drive by, yet somehow carrying even farther than usual the shouts of joy of the kids in the neighborhood.
On the beach though it’s a different story—the wind blowing at 20mph from the north whips the snowflakes into stinging pellets of ice. The ocean is surprisingly calm, probably because this storm is a land based storm, crossing from the west and then heading up the coast.
The beach has a surreal look to it. The ocean, unnaturally calm today, has not encroached on the three or four inches of snow that has fallen. Against the darkening gray of the winter storm, the white of the snow stands in sharp contrast.
Visibility is reduced, much more than at other places along the Outer Banks. There is nothing to stop the wind from picking up the snow that blankets this strand of sand between the dunes and sea, and that combined with the snow that is falling creates a haze-like visibility that makes anything beyond 300 or 400 yards indistinct.
It’s too cold to stay here very long. The dampness of the wind off the ocean, the stinging nettles of ice or snow, the general feeling of cold pushes its way through multiple layers of clothing and in five minutes—perhaps 10 at the most—a steaming cup of hot chocolate begins to sound as wonderful as water in the desert.
Coastal North Carolina is at the center of an energy goldmine. Listening to a panel of experts at a Outer Bank Chamber of Commerce luncheon today—Thursday—that message came amidst all the talk of renewable and alternative energies.
Jim Bennet, Chief of the Office of Renewable Energy Programs, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), was on hand. BOEM has identified three offshore wind energy sites along the North Carolina shore and according to what he told the guests at Jennette’s Pier where the event was held, the first leases will be sold by the end of this year for the Kitty Hawk Block.
The sale of a lease does not mean energy production is imminent—it’s at least a three to four year process—but it is a very significant first step.
Ivan Ulaub, Executive Director of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) pointed out that North Carolina is one of the leading producers of solar power—fourth in the nation now, and more solar power is coming on to the grid at all times.
There is already a 20-megawatt site in Shawboro next to the airport on mainland Currituck County and plans are being drawn up for development of the closed Goose Creek Golf course as a solar energy site.
There are other long-term possibilities as well. Some very preliminary studies of the Gulf Stream are underway at this time looking at it as a potential source of energy.
Passing closest to the continual US at Cape Hatteras, the flow of the Gulf Stream at that point is equivalent to almost 90 times the flow of every river on earth.