A new report has outlined how the US state of South Carolina could tap into the growing offshore wind manufacturing and development pipeline to drive economic growth and support an annual average of 847 jobs through to 2035.
The new report, entitled The South Carolina Jobs Project: A Guide to Creating Jobs in Offshore Wind, was published late September out of the American Jobs Project in partnership with the Burroughs and Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies (BCCMWS) at Coastal Carolina University and BVG Associates.
The report stems from the recent increase in interest in the offshore wind sector down the East Coast of the United States — demand that is growing dramatically, and falling costs due to maturity across the global offshore wind industry. In 2018 alone, the US offshore wind industry has exploded from just a single 30 megawatt (MW) offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island to boasting a developmental and aspirational pipeline in excess of 5 gigawatts (GW) (and possibly as high as 7 or 8 gigawatts).
Specifically, in May of 2018, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey each made announcements which pushed the country’s developmental pipeline up to at least 5 GW. New Jersey in September solidified its ambition by opening a 1.1 GW application window for offshore wind. This was followed a few days later by a report which outlined a pathway for Virginia to develop 2 GW worth of offshore wind by 2028, a report given further credibility by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s declaration that offshore wind could be “a tremendous victory for Virginia.”
Continuing the downward journey along the US East Coast, the new American Jobs Project report laid out a pathway for how South Carolina could tap into the growing offshore wind energy industry, based on South Carolina’s research expertise, manufacturing sector, and logistics infrastructure.
“Jumpstarting South Carolina’s offshore wind conversation would position us to benefit from this quickly growing sector,” said Paul Gayes, Executive Director of BCCMWS. “Right now, there are $56 billion committed to Atlantic Coast offshore wind projects. AJP’s report shows that we can leverage South Carolina’s industry strengths to provide support for these projects and nurture local projects that would grow the economy while meeting our energy needs.”
Specifically, according to the report, the offshore wind energy industry could support an average of 847 in-state jobs each year through to 2035 — including jobs in development, installation, and operation of offshore wind farms in South Carolina, as well as component manufacturing for local and regional projects.
South Carolina is already home to a globally important drivetrain testing facility which boasts partnerships with world-leading offshore wind energy companies GE and MHI Vestas. South Carolina also boasts significant expertise in offshore meteorology and oceanography.
“Offshore wind could provide stable employment for hundreds of middle-class workers while creating follow-on benefits for the broader labor market,” said Mary Collins, Managing Director of the American Jobs Project and co-author of the report. “South Carolina leaders could position the state as a pioneer in the regional market and put some of the first turbines into Southeast waters.”
The report offers several recommendations for South Carolina to take advantage of this unique economic opportunity, including:
- Fostering the commercialization culture at universities to help homegrown innovations play a larger role in the global economy
- Expanding the Angel Tax Credit and the SC Launch program to bolster access to capital for South Carolina’s early-stage startups
- Leveraging integrated basic education and skills (I-BEST) programs at technical colleges to address the STEM skills gap and boost manufacturing employment
- Assessing the offshore wind readiness of South Carolina’s ports to support current and future offshore wind industry needs
- Highlighting offshore wind as a potential tourist attraction to allay public fears and catalyze project development