12 Business Cases that Support Offshore Wind Energy

Credit: Siemens

SACE Renewable Energy Manager Simon Mahan contributed to this blogpost.

Offshore wind energy is a clean and inexhaustible resource that would reduce air pollution, preserve precious water resources, and reduce carbon emissions along our coasts here in the Southeast. In addition to these environmental benefits, offshore wind energy would provide a major source of economic growth.

Here are 12 business cases that support offshore wind energy in the Southeast:

1. The Southeast has some of the best offshore wind resource in the country.

Here in the Southeast, we have significant offshore wind energy potential in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Research by James Madison University suggests the region could host between 1,695 megawatts to 9,760 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030. Developing just 1,000 megawatts of our resource may create a $3.9-$5.6 billion investment.

2. Offshore wind development in the Southeast is cheaper than other regions.

Shallow seas and strong breezes help reduce the costs associated with building offshore wind farms in our region. According to the Energy Information Association (EIA), Southeastern states (including Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) are some of the lowest cost construction sites for offshore wind compared to the rest of the country. For example, building an offshore wind farm with 1,000 megawatts of capacity off South Carolina is estimated to be about 44% cheaper than building that same project off New York – and could save nearly $2.2 billion.

3. Offshore wind energy would increase energy security.

Recent extreme weather events have proven that wind energy can provide extremely valuable electricity and avoid power outages. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), during record-breaking freezing temperatures this winter, “wind energy’s output provided the critical difference that allowed grid operators to keep supply and demand in balance and the lights on.” At times in the Mid-Atlantic during January’s Polar Vortex, wind energy was estimated to save ratepayers to the tune of $1.5 million to $2 million per hour.

4. Offshore wind energy could keep prices down for ratepayers.

Offshore wind farms can help protect ratepayers from unpredictable fossil fuel price fluctuations. A recent study by General Electric shows that offshore wind, in conjunction with onshore wind, could reduce electricity production costs in the Mid-Atlantic by $16.1 billion, and reduce wholesale load payments by $21.5 billion by 2026.

5. Offshore wind energy acts as a peaking power resource.

Offshore wind energy could supply cost effective electricity for high electrical demand across the Southeast during the summertime. A recent report published by SACE shows that North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia’s offshore wind resources are positively correlated with peak electricity demand hours in summer months because of the sea breeze effect. Replacing peaking generation, which can be very expensive, with a zero-fuel-cost resource like offshore wind can reduce ratepayer costs. Cape Wind, the nation’s first proposed offshore wind farm, is expected to save customers in New England $25 million annually by reducing the use of expensive power plants.

6. Offshore wind resources are located where it is most needed: the coasts.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, our coastlines are experiencing rapid population growth. To meet this growing population demand, offshore wind energy can provide easily accessible energy and avoid transmission grid congestion from the West and transmission construction costs. Alternating current transmission power lines lose electricity over great distances, and every mile of additional transmission line can increase construction costs by $1-$2 million per additional mile.

A Georgia Institute of Technology study predicts that coastal Georgia will see a 51% population increase from 2000 to 2030. Credit: Georgia Tech’s Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development 

7. Offshore wind energy development will revitalize our ports.

In Europe, where offshore wind farms are being developed at a rapid pace, ports are seeing a boost in business from the offshore wind industry. The port of New Bedford in Massachusetts is undergoing a $100 million renovation to improve its abilities to handle offshore wind turbines and components.

 8. The Offshore Wind Industry will create local jobs for the region.

Credit: Siemens AG

The Department of Energy released a report (“Potential Economic Impacts from Offshore Wind in the Southeast Region,”), conducted by James Madison University, that looks at various economic scenarios along the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The study suggests that a “moderate” offshore wind development scenario would result in 20,000 construction jobs and 6,700 permanent jobs across the Southeast by 2030.

9. Offshore wind farms are attractions for turbine tourism.

People are fascinated by wind farms and turbine tourism is well documented. Offshore wind farms are already tourist attractions in Europe where people take boat tours to visit the wind farms. A University of Delaware study shows that offshore wind farms would draw tourists and create demand for boat tours.

10. Offshore wind farms save water.

Most thermal power plants, like coal and nuclear power plants, withdraw and consume large quantities of freshwater. Wind farms, like solar photovoltaic panels, do not use water to generate power. Developing 1,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity could reduce water consumption by 1.6 billion gallons per year by replacing water-intensive power plants.

11. Offshore wind farms would reduce cash exports and fuel imports.

Offshore wind farms use a free, inexhaustible local fuel to generate electricity: the wind. In 2012, Southeastern states and their respective utilities spent $6.4 billion to import coal into the region. These are billions of dollars leaving the region, never to return again. Offshore wind could help supplant coal imports and keep money in the local economy.

12. Risk of catastrophic disaster is greatly reduced with offshore wind farms.

Unlike catastrophic offshore oil drilling spills (like BP), catastrophic nuclear meltdowns (like Japan’s Fukushima reactors), catastrophic coal ash spills (like TVA’s Kingston or Duke’s Dan River), catastrophic crude oil train derailments and explosions (like Genesis Energy in Alabama) or catastrophic petroleum sinkholes (like Texas Brine’s salt dome in Bayou Corne, Louisiana), offshore wind farms have had no catastrophic disaster anywhere near the size and scope of some other energy resources. With each of these other disasters, millions and sometimes billions of dollars of costs are associated, not to mention the threat to and loss of human life.

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