Georgia has tremendous offshore wind energy potential, but many barriers stand in the way of making this energy source a reality off our coast. While Europe has been taking advantage of offshore wind for more than 25 years, the first offshore wind farm in the United States is only just under construction off the coast of Rhode Island.
The process of planning and developing an offshore wind farm is complicated to maneuver. There are many different stakeholders and offshore activities to consider, including commercial fishing, recreation and tourism, and military operations. The permitting process also involves involves many different agencies at the local, state, and federal level.
Thus, Georgia is in need of a more streamlined and accessible process for developing an offshore wind project – which includes access to a diverse set of data. That’s why Georgia Tech and Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) teamed up to create a data application that would help put all these puzzle pieces together. They recognized major data gaps and a need for a tool to compile all of these pieces of data in one system, so Georgia Tech’s Center for Geographic Information Systems and Strategic Energy Institute partnered with the Georgia DNR Coastal Resources Division to launch a new marine planning application called the Georgia Coastal and Marine Planner (GCAMP). GCAMP provides online access to data regarding coastal and ocean resources, which can help facilitate Georgia’s management of these resources in regards to offshore wind energy.
This application is extremely user friendly, providing users with in-depth descriptions of the data and useful tutorials. Mary Hallisey Hunt, senior research associate and director of research and business operations for the Strategic Energy Institute, emphasized that this was a main focus of the project. “GCAMP provides easily accessible and understandable information that potential stakeholders can use to learn more about the benefits and challenges of potential sites for offshore development,” said Hunt.
Recently, GCAMP created a Hypothetical Wind Farm Case Study with a step by step presentation to demonstrate how a utility would move forward with developing an offshore wind farm in Georgia. The study walks through various permitting processes and highlights the state agencies’ relationships and potential engagement roles in the process. GCAMP strives to provide as much data as possible regarding wildlife and marine areas to ensure that an offshore wind farm would be developed responsibly.
Earlier this year, it was announced that GCAMP will be sponsored through a five year grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) so we look forward to watching this tool grow! The GCAMP team will continue to work with different stakeholders to incorporate more useful data into the application.
One of the biggest barriers to offshore wind development in Georgia remains the lack of a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Task Force – which must be issued by the Governor to get the ball rolling. Yet, through GCAMP, Georgia Tech and Georgia DNR are laying the groundwork for offshore wind energy development.
While Georgia may be lagging behind its Atlantic neighbors with actual offshore wind energy development, we may have one of the best tools in the nation to prepare for this resource moving forward.