Posted on 2/4/2015

Wind Energy Coming to the Outer Banks?

BOEM depiction of offshore wind turbines. Areas availalble off NC coast are in waters 30-60 meters in depth.

There's general agreement that the Outer Banks is one of the windiest places around-that is, after all why the Wright Brothers chose Kitty Hawk to learn about flight. But until recently, not much has been done to develop the wind as an energy resource.

That may be changing.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)-the federal agency that watches over energy development in the ocean-just released an environmental assessment of areas off the North Carolina coast that can be developed for wind energy.

The process is complex, it's going to take a while, but without the environmental assessment, nothing moves forward.

At one time, an area off the Outer Banks west of Kitty Hawk was one of the largest wind energy areas on the east coast, but concerns about shipping lanes and the visual impact of commercial turbines too close to shore, have shrunk the area by almost 90%. Nonetheless, there is a lot of energy that can be generated there and a lot of interest.

This is truly the beginning of a complex and time-consuming process. The environmental assessment only indicates areas that may be suitable for utility grade wind energy. Businesses that are interested in developing the area will lease the sites from the government.

If they determine the site is suitable for commercial development the business would then have to develop an environmental impact statement, a much more detailed study than the environmental assessment.

There will be a chance tor the public to learn more about the just released assessment this coming Monday, February 9, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kitty Hawk. The meeting is scheduled from 5 p.m.-8 p.m.

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