It looks like the Koch brothers really are losing their grip. Last Friday, the Department of the Interior brought the hammer down in favor of offshore wind development in North Carolina, where the fossil-friendly industrialist brothers are used to wielding an outsized influence on energy policy. The latest DOI announcement brings the state one step closer to exploiting its considerable offshore resources.
The DOI move caps off a week in which the Koch brothers influence on wind energy policy in Wisconsin also shows signs of slippage.
Offshore Wind Energy for North Carolina…
Renewable energy fans have long enthused over the vast wealth of offshore wind energy possessed by Atlantic coast states. By some measurements, turbines located in the relatively shallow waters of the Continental Shelf could provide enough electricity to power every city along the eastern seaboard.
The goodies are particularly rich for North Carolina, which is one in a cluster of four mid-southern Atlantic coast states that are positioned for rapid growth. Here’s the rundown from CleanTechnica last year:
The four coastal states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia have 82 percent of the total Atlantic coast wind potential in shallow water…These four states also have some of the lowest construction costs for offshore wind turbines all along the eastern seaboard, and they’re among the largest and fastest-growing electricity markets.
North Carolina did sign on to the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium back in 2010, when DOI announced the initiative to coordinate and speed up development of the nation’s offshore wind resources.
However, since then it’s been six years of cricket chirps, a circumstance that dovetails neatly with the Koch brothers investments in state policy.
In fact, tiny Rhode Island — which seems to be one of the few states to have slipped under the Koch radar — has been leading the offshore wind energy pack.
Rhode Island nailed down the first “steel in the water” title for a US state when construction started last year for the Block Island wind farm.
The 30-megawatt project is on track to get up and running later this year.
…Like It Or Not
Despite the Koch influence in North Carolina and elsewhere along the Atlantic seaboard (New Jersey is another notorious example), DOI has been forging ahead with a program of lease sales in designated Wind Energy Areas, in waters managed by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Here’s the rundown from DOI:
To date, BOEM has awarded 11 commercial offshore wind leases, including nine through the competitive lease sale process (two offshore New Jersey, two in an area offshore Rhode Island-Massachusetts, another two offshore Massachusetts, two offshore Maryland and one offshore Virginia).
So far the program has leased more than one million acres of federal waters.
The new DOI lease announcement puts North Carolina next in line for wind energy development, by proposing a new lease sale for the Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area.
Kitty Hawk was designated back in 2014 as a 122,405 acre site:
This WEA begins about 24 nautical miles from shore and extends about 25.7 nautical miles in a general southeast direction. Its seaward extent ranges from 13.5 nautical miles in the north to .6 of a nautical mile in the south. It contains 21.5 Outer Continental Shelf blocks.
For those of you keeping score at home, DOI also outlined two other WEAs for North Carolina in 2014. They did not disappear — these two sites will be included in a forthcoming offshore lease sale for another wind energy holdout, South Carolina.
Things will be moving along at a rapid clip following Friday’s announcement. DOI will publish its “Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) and Request for Interest (RFI) for Commercial Leasing for Wind Power on the Outer Continental Shelf Offshore North Carolina” in the Federal Register on August 16.
That will kickstart a 60-day public comment period ending in mid-October, so stay tuned.
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Image (cropped): North Carolina’s Kitty Hawk offshore wind area via US Department of the Interior.
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