A new study out of the University of North Carolina (UNC) shows that North Carolina could have 100% of its power coming from off-shore wind turbines, “without significant human or environmental impacts.”
Plans are now for Duke Energy to build three pilot off-shore wind turbines in state waters, which would make North Carolina “the first state to generate wind power from in-water turbines.”
North Carolina has a goal of supplying 12.5% of its power from renewable energy by 2021. However, marine ecologist and co-author of the new study, Pete Peterson, says much more is possible. “We concluded that you could generate enough electricity from wind turbines off the coast to power the entire state. You’d have to put up a tremendous number of turbines, and the power grid infrastructure would need to be upgraded. But even if you developed one-sixth of the offshore region suitable for wind farms, you could generate twenty percent of the state’s power needs.”
The UNC study was commissioned to examine the human and ecological viability of generating power from wind turbines off the coast and to identify the best locations for such turbines. It involved researchers from UNC, North Carolina State University (NCSU) and East Carolina University (ECU), as well as “experts on birds, bats, insects, sea turtles, fish, butterflies and marine mammals…. duck hunters, ecotourism professionals, whale watchers, park service workers, academics and fishermen.”
Researchers found that North Carolina has some of the best wind speeds in the country and “they concluded the optimal wind resources were in Onslow Bay and Raleigh Bay, about 20 miles off the coastline,” UNC reports.
In an exhaustive study of potential environmental impacts, the research team “found that the farther you get from land and the farther east you get from the barrier islands, the less risk there is to animals, as long as you avoid the marine-life rich Gulf Stream.”
This is good news considering the Department of Interior’s finding last year that 100% of US electricity demand could be met from off-shore wind.
North Carolina is just about ready to move ahead on off-shore wind. If all goes well, it could become a national leader in the off-shore wind power sector. Nonetheless, from the coast, its wind turbines would look no more than one inch tall.
Image Credit: Vattenfall via flickr under a CC license