The real cost of offshore wind in NC? Our coastal communities
Last month, North Carolina entered into an agreement with the Danish Energy Agency to further the state’s plans on implementing offshore energy generation to its energy portfolio. As stated in Gov. Cooper’s Executive Order 80 and the state’s Clean Energy Plan, the implementation of offshore wind farms has been deemed necessary for the state to reach its clean energy goals.
Indeed, the state’s policymakers seem fixated on this form of energy generation to the exclusion of all other viable options. This move would be catastrophic for the state, as the cost alone of maintaining and repairing offshore turbines would be astronomical, and it would almost certainly decimate the economies of coastal communities reliant on tourism.
While the installation of these wind farms would reduce carbon emissions from energy production, it would also provide the state with an altogether inefficient source of energy and more than likely destroy the tourist economies of several N.C. coastal communities.
In a 2015 survey conducted by N.C. State’s Center for Environmental and Resource Economic Policy, 80% of respondents said that they would either not vacation at a beach with views of wind turbines or they would require significant discounts on rental homes at such a beach destination. This could potentially spell disaster for affected communities, such as the greater Wilmington area, whose economies rely heavily on tourism. Should North Carolina decide to construct these wind turbines within viewing distance from the shore, beach tourists would likely find other places to vacation, possibly out of state.
The other concern with such a move is obviously efficiency and reliability. One may remember that as recently as this past February, the wind turbines in Texas were frozen to a standstill, compounding the power loss issues already affecting the Lone Star State. In North Carolina during the unprecedented Christmas Eve blackouts of 2022, the state’s nuclear power remained unaffected, while other energy generation sources struggled to stay online. North Carolina rarely see’s such cold weather, however, it does face hurricanes on a regular basis, with coastal communities feeling the brunt of the impact.
It remains unclear whether or not these offshore wind turbines would be able to handle such meteorological events. However, the current statistics say that turbines would not do well under such conditions. Thus, the state could risk having many turbines being forced offline due to damage during and after a hurricane, when energy is arguably needed the most. Additionally, studies have been conducted predicting that offshore wind farms in areas such as those proposed by the Governor’s Administration would see roughly half of the turbines destroyed over a 20-year period.
While there is no doubt that the goal to reduce carbon emissions from energy generation is a noble one, there are better ways for the state to reach that goal. Nuclear and natural gas generated energy is more reliable, more resilient, more cost efficient, and less intrusive to tourism than the offshore wind sites proposed by the current administration.
Offshore wind would seem to be undesirable for most places, but it is especially undesirable for North Carolina. Should the state decide to follow the plans and actions taken by Gov. Cooper, the effects would be enormous. Essentially, the state would be placing an unreliable resource costing billions of dollars out in the middle of some of the most tumultuous waters in the country all the while knowing that half of the investment will have been destroyed by hurricanes within 20 years. It would also likely send tourists to beaches outside of the state.
It is foolish to disrupt so much good to get little or nothing in return. Carbon emissions must be limited, but when it comes to offshore wind, the cost is greater than any foreseeable benefit.