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Letter to the Editor: Letter draws response from Southeastern Wind Coalition

To Coastland Times Editors and Readers,

We appreciate Susan Vazquez’s letter to the editor (11/18) questioning offshore wind development and how the projected jobs and economic development will be realized. It is easy to see how the bits and pieces of news on this subject could be confusing.

We’d like to help set the record straight for North Carolina and the once-in-a-generation economic opportunity the offshore wind industry presents. It may seem ambitious that the U.S. could create nearly 100,000 jobs and over $50B in economic investment in just a decade. The fact is, this industry has already installed over 5000 offshore wind turbines in other parts of the world, namely around Europe’s North Sea and off the coast of China, with exponential growth planned over the next five years. Although the technology is evolving, it is not new, and the expertise to build and operate this industry is well known.

What is new is the opportunity for these industrial scale machines to be manufactured on U.S. soil rather than abroad. Given the size of the turbines, necessitating transport on water, it is projected that the major manufacturers will build production capacity in-country for each of the 8000+ components contained in an offshore wind turbine. This will all come together as the U.S. market ramps up in the next few years.

An analysis published earlier this year by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) projects that 30-gigawatts, or enough to power 12M homes, of offshore wind development will create 83,000 jobs, $52B of local investment, and total economic impacts of $25B. Five states, including Virginia, have already committed to building over 25-gigawatts off their coasts. These goals aren’t arbitrary – they’re supported by state-level legislative and regulatory requirements, and are based on the states’ own economic studies confirming the industry’s significant growth potential. As soon as the permitting process accelerates at the Federal level, planned projects will be underway in 2021, positioning the U.S. to realize the projected economic impacts, which many consider conservative, given expected increasing commitments from the states.

The majority of jobs and investments will coincide with the construction and operations of these projects, however offshore wind developers have already demonstrated a commitment to the U.S. market with more than $1.3B in port, manufacturing, and transmission-related investments. The industry is further contributing to the success of offshore wind through investments in workforce development, training and operations facilities, and research. In the coming years, a diverse workforce will be deployed in the production, construction and operation of wind farms comprising approximately 74 occupations including electricians, welders, scientists, and vessel operators.

While private developers are currently permitting the Kitty Hawk project off the coast, North Carolina has not yet made any offshore wind commitments and is currently focused on attracting the manufacturing supply chain to the state, not securing electricity contracts. Further, the recently-announced collaborative effort among NC, VA and MD – called SMART-POWER – is focused on coordinating efforts to attract new manufacturing, reduce regulatory hurdles, and share best practices.

North Carolina is already home to over 55 manufacturers that are part of the land-based wind energy supply chain. These companies, along with our strong ports and coastal infrastructure, position North Carolina to be a leader in the offshore wind industry and drive even more opportunities that are so needed to support our economic recovery from the pandemic.

Katharine Kollins

President, Southeastern Wind Coalition

FOR MORE COLUMNS AND LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, CHECK OUT OUR OPINION SECTION HERE.

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