October 30, 2020

Even in dark times, Cooper, fellow governors seize a brighter future

There is so much uncertainty these days. It is hard to imagine contemplating a couple of days or weeks into the future.  But Thursday North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper with the governors of Virginia and Maryland, reminded us that we cannot be consumed by apprehension of what the COVID-19 pandemic sends our way. The future isn’t limited to what must be done to sway the outcome of the election five days from now.

The three-state agreement on offshore wind energy development – a framework for North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland to work together to advance projects – is about the future. It is looking ahead years and decades from now.

It is refreshing that the three governors, two Democrats and a Republican, recognize that mutual interest and opportunity overshadows immediate partisanship even in the midst of one of the most highly charged election seasons in memory.

They recognize that the time is now to have a framework of cooperation for offshore wind projects that could yield 86,000 jobs, $57 billion in investment and provide $25 billion in economic output over the next decade.

Further, it will diversify the sources of electric production in the region – making the three states less dependent on any single resource and thus in a better position to deal with changes that may come in the resources available to generate power.

Recent surveys confirm what has been evident for the last 20 years. North Carolina offshore wind potential is among the best on the Atlantic coast. It is a resource we need to harness.

With this agreement, the states will work cooperatively “to promote, develop and expand offshore wind energy” with a formal structure for representatives from each state to work together to ease the development of the wind resource that blurs state boundaries.

The cooperative agreement will help provide resource and regulatory consistency that will be critical to potential wind energy developers and the power industry.

While the General Assembly has done it’s best to add uncertainty to wind energy development, Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration hasn’t let that stifle efforts to exploit the potential.

The state Commerce Department has commissioned a study to identify infrastructure and supply chain resources needed for offshore wind development.

Already, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has leased 122,000 acres about 24 miles from Corolla to wind energy developer Avangrid. The area has the potential to generate 2,700 megawatts of power – enough to supply electricity to 700,000 homes.

The region’s major power providers, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, are already gearing up.

Duke Energy is in the midst of a three-year study of the potential for offshore wind power in North Carolina – drawing on expertise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to gather specific data and develop forecasting tools for decision-makers to use in planning offshore projects.

Dominion Energy has its Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project to develop and operate the turbines within a 2,135-acre site that is 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach.

The agreement the three governors announced Thursday provides refreshing affirmation that even in times that seem to prevent us from thinking beyond the next sunrise, there are leaders working, planning and preparing for the next generation.

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