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From Site Selection magazine, September 2021

A Tar Heel Play for Offshore Wind Energy Production

North Carolina
Downtown Charlotte, North Carolina
Getty Images


North Carolina is well positioned to attract a significant portion of a more than $100 billion market opportunity from the growing offshore wind energy industry, according to a report released in March by the North Carolina Department of Commerce. The publication of the report, “Building North Carolina’s Offshore Wind Supply Chain,” from BVG Associates (BVGA), reflects Governor Roy Cooper’s commitment to build a clean energy economy to fight climate change and grow clean-energy jobs in North Carolina.

BVGA, a consulting company with extensive wind energy experience, forecasts the U.S. East Coast will see a total offshore installed capacity exceeding 40 gigawatts (GW) by 2035. Reaching this level of capacity will require a manufacturing ecosystem to supply component parts for at least two dozen utility-scale wind farms.

To reach the capacity targets for wind projects already publicly announced by states and site developers, BVGA expects the industry will invest $140 billion by 2035 to establish and build out its supply chain, install equipment, and operate the wind facilities. BVGA forecasts North Carolina manufacturers can address and supply equipment for the entire East Coast market, not just for projects directly off the state’s coast.

“Wind energy means new jobs for North Carolinians,” said Machelle Baker Sanders, North Carolina’s Commerce Secretary. “Just like biotechnology was for us many years ago, today clean energy represents an industry of the future, and North Carolina always embraces the future.”


North Carolina’s manufacturers and workforce are well positioned to play an integral role in the entire East Coast market, not just for projects directly off the state’s coast.”
—North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders


The North Carolina Office of Science, Technology, & Innovation, an operating unit of the Commerce Department, led the study project for the state and commissioned the report. The BVGA lead team included experts from Lloyds Register Energy Americas, Timmons Group, and North Carolina State University and its NC Clean Energy Technology Center.

What’s Already in Place

In addition to the market analysis, BVGA researched and is developing an inventory of businesses, organizations, and physical infrastructure best positioned to promote offshore wind (OSW) development in North Carolina. The report finds that North Carolina has multiple port and water-front properties well suited to support the OSW industry currently developing off the U.S. East Coast. The state also has a fully integrated, up-to-date high-capacity intermodal transport system consisting of rail, road, inland waterways, and coastal waterways that connects well to North Carolina’s coastline and adjoining states.

The company’s report includes recommendations for actions the state might take to leverage the emerging OSW opportunity. The company developed a similar study for the State of Virginia.

North Carolina already features one approved Wind Energy Area (WEA) under lease for development. The Kitty Hawk WEA, located 24 nautical miles from Corolla, is projected to be able to support 2,500 megawatts of electricity generation, which would be enough to power approximately 700,000 homes.

The report sends an important signal to OSW developers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that North Carolina is committed to the industry, both as a location for wind energy projects as well as an ideal manufacturing location for projects along the entire eastern seaboard. The new assessment is part of the ongoing work to implement Governor Cooper’s Clean Energy Plan for the state.

In October 2018, Governor Cooper signed Executive Order 80 to reaffirm North Carolina’s commitment to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions and support the expansion of clean energy businesses. Among other actions, the executive order directed the Department of Commerce to support the expansion of clean energy businesses and service providers, encourage clean technology investment, and support companies seeking to procure renewable energy.

On October 1, 2019, the Department of Commerce published an extensive workforce assessment for the clean energy and clean transportation industry sectors. On October 29, 2020, the governors of Maryland and Virginia joined Governor Cooper to announce a three-state framework to advance offshore wind projects, known as the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Regional Transformative Partnership for Offshore Wind Energy Resources (SMART-POWER). (See p. 205 for more.)

Goals and Marching Orders

This past June, Governor Cooper issued Executive Order No. 218, highlighting the economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind and directs actions to help North Carolina secure the jobs and economic development associated with the industry’s estimated $140 billion investment over the next 15 years to develop projects from North Carolina up the Atlantic Coast.

“Offshore wind power will help North Carolina create jobs and generate economic development while helping us transition to a clean energy economy,” he said. “North Carolina’s national leadership in clean energy and manufacturing plus our highly trained workforce create a strong business environment for offshore wind supply chain and manufacturing companies.”

The Order establishes offshore wind development goals of 2.8 gigawatts off the North Carolina coast by 2030 and 8 GW by 2040. Achieving these goals will power roughly 2.3 million homes by 2040. In addition to creating economic benefits across North Carolina, the development will help achieve the North Carolina Clean Energy Plan goal of a 70% reduction in power sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050. 

“This coordinated approach to developing our offshore wind supply chain will bring new jobs to North Carolina for generations to come,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “From building out the supply chain, to installing equipment, to operating the wind facilities, North Carolina’s manufacturers and workforce are well positioned to play an integral role in the entire East Coast market, not just for projects directly off the state’s coast.”

The Order directs the North Carolina Department of Commerce to name a clean energy economic development coordinator and establish the North Carolina Taskforce for Offshore Wind Economic Resource Strategies (NC TOWERS). The Order also directs the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to designate offshore wind coordinators and take steps to support offshore wind. The Order directs quarterly meetings of the North Carolina Offshore Wind Interagency Workgroup to ensure offshore wind activities are well coordinated among leadership in relevant agencies. 

Mark Arend
Editor Emeritus of Site Selection magazine

Mark Arend

Mark Arend is editor emeritus of Site Selection, and previously served as editor in chief from 2001 to 2023. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.


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