Today, the National Wildlife Federation, together with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Utility Workers Union of America, Environment America, National Audubon, Conservation Law Foundation, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and many more state and regional partners, released a report on offshore wind energy.
Using figures from a National Renewable Energy Laboratory study, the report highlights the vast offshore wind energy potential and activities occurring in each state from Maine to Florida.
“In the South, offshore wind represents a huge opportunity to generate thousands of high quality jobs while reducing our region’s dependence on dirty fossil fuels,” said Simon Mahan, Renewable Energy Manager for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “The National Wildlife Federation’s report showcases the wide range of offshore wind energy supporters including manufacturers, businesses, electric utilities, unions, environmental organizations, universities and non-partisan elected officials.”
Since offshore wind resources are closest to where electricity demand is highest – on the coasts – tapping this resource would require building fewer transmission lines from the middle of the country to the coastal populations. Offshore wind turbine installation requires many of the same skills that have been developed in the U.S. offshore oil and natural gas industries, making the transition from the fossil fuels industry to the clean renewable energy industry possible for those workers.
The National Wildlife Federation’s report outlines the environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind energy. According to a study by the National Renewable Energy Lab, each megawatt of offshore wind energy capacity built in the U.S. will create more than 20 direct jobs, based on European data. Offshore wind farms have been operational in Europe for nearly 20 years, and 19,000 people are already employed in the offshore wind industry in that continent, including manufacturing.
“Georgia’s offshore wind energy resource can revive the state’s manufacturing sector with high quality, high paying, clean energy jobs,” said Rita Kilpatrick, Georgia Policy Director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
Even developing a small portion of the country’s offshore wind energy potential would provide significant amounts of electricity. For example, South Carolina’s offshore winds could provide two-and-a-half times as much electricity as currently generated in the state.
“Tapping just a small portion South Carolina’s offshore wind energy resource could completely revitalize our coastal communities with new jobs and sources of revenue,” said Toni Reale, Coastal Program Coordinator for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “The National Wildlife Federation’s report reinforces what South Carolinians have been hearing all along: that offshore wind energy is a smart choice for our state.”
Currently, commercial offshore wind energy technology is limited to development in waters of 30 meters depth or less. Fortunately, about 32% of the shallow water resource resides off North Carolina and South Carolina combined.
“North Carolina has excellent offshore wind resources that, if developed responsibly, could generate thousands of clean energy jobs and millions of dollars in state revenue,” said Ulla Reeves, Regional Program Director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “The National Wildlife Federation’s report highlights the vast benefits of offshore wind energy for North Carolina.”
All along the east coast, interest in offshore wind energy is peaking; however, the region is also investigating offshore oil and natural gas drilling.
“Florida’s offshore wind energy resource can provide clean energy, and green jobs, without the risk of a major catastrophe like an oil spill,” said Tom Larson, Florida Energy Policy Manager for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “The National Wildlife Federation’s report reinforces the proposition that offshore wind energy is a safe, smart energy choice for our region.”
Florida has not yet completed a wind resource assessment for its offshore wind resources. To determine the quality and quantity of the state’s resource, this type of assessment is necessary. In addition to the environmental benefits of offshore wind energy, a University of Delaware study has found that offshore wind farms may increase local tourism.
In order to ensure offshore wind is developed sustainably and substantially, the United States Department of the Interior recently announced a “Smart from the Start” program to advance offshore wind farm siting and permitting along the east coast. This process is similar to one created by the Bureau of Land Management for permitting renewable energy projects on federal lands which has reduced the permitting timeline onshore. This is an important first step; however, more must be done. Passing a robust, federal renewable energy standard that requires a significant percentage of renewable electricity, enticing wind turbine manufacturers with investment tax credits and loan guarantees, as well as providing robust funding for federal and state energy programs that promote offshore wind energy will all aid in developing this fledgling industry.