Tune in to nearly any public environmental meeting and you’ll hear residents of environmental justice communities repeatedly clamor for clean jobs: not pipelines or wood pellet plants, but careers in industries that will break the cycle of generational poverty, while leaving the planet a more hospitable place for future generations.
A new report commissioned by the NC Department of Commerce projects that nationwide wind energy-related jobs will create $100 billion of market opportunities in manufacturing, operations, construction, as well as transportation, and marine services. If North Carolina captures even 10% of the economic benefits, that’s $10 billion, not including indirect perks of weaning off fossil fuels, such as the pollution reductions and the mitigation of climate change.
“Wind energy means new jobs for North Carolinians,” said Commerce Secretary Machelle Sanders, in a prepared statement. “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.”
BVG Associates, a consulting company with extensive wind energy experience, was hired by the state Commerce Department to analyze the energy market and appetite for offshore wind. The company forecasts the U.S. East Coast will see a total offshore installed capacity exceeding 40 gigawatts by 2035. Reaching this level of capacity, the report says, will require an entire manufacturing supply chain to provide component parts for at least two dozen utility-scale wind farms.
However, there remain hurdles to completing these projects: Essential environmental protections and permits, avoidance of military flight paths, the effects on fisheries, even the condition of coastal soils and shipping channels to accommodate the heavy equipment. Connecting the farms to the onshore grid is also a sensitive issue for tourism and sightseeing. (Nonetheless, these onshore power stations are far less polluting and unsightly than petroleum/fossil fuel installations, Corpus Christi and Port Arthur, Texas being Exhibits A and B.)
If these economic promises come to pass — remember, these are based on models — state leaders must ensure that environmental justice communities are included in the windfall. Construction jobs for the wind farms would be temporary, but the manufacturing positions — for turbines, pilings and smaller components — would be permanent.
Here are some numbers from the report and other academic and government sources on offshore wind’s potential:
27 — miles from the Outer Banks where Avangrid’s Kitty Hawk project would be located
200 — square miles the wind farm would encompass, known as the Wind Energy Area
2,500 megawatts — potential energy the Kitty Hawk project could generate
700,000 — number of homes that energy could power
2025 — year when construction on the Kitty Hawk project is scheduled to begin
$2 billion — estimated total economic impact of the Kitty Hawk project over the next decade in Virginia and North Carolina
17 — miles from shore the potential Wilmington East wind farm would be located*
208 — square miles it would encompass
11 — miles from shore the potential Wilmington West wind farm would be located
80 — square miles it would encompass
8 gigawatts — amount of offshore wind required to generate 25% of North Carolina’s electricity consumption
1 — North Carolina’s rank among East Coast states in the value of its manufacturing sector’s Gross Domestic Product
470,000 — number of workers employed in manufacturing in North Carolina
10,250 — number of manufacturing companies
42 — number of companies that have enrolled in the NC Offshore Wind Supply Chain Registry. This includes installation/logistics, construction, marine services and manufacturing.
21 — number of North Carolina companies in the registry
5,522 — estimated direct/indirect construction jobs created by development of one 352-megawatt offshore wind farm in NC
191 — estimated direct/indirect operations jobs
*The Wilmington areas have not been leased; Avangrid has leased its site through the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management.
Sources: NC Department of Commerce/BVG/NCSU Associates report, Duke University, NC DEQ Clean Energy Plan, U.S. Department of Energy