new player on the scene proposes wind farm off Morehead City
turbines will not be on the horizon any time soon off Hatteras Island,
but there could be a wind energy project to the south with an Outer
By CATHERINE KOZAK
Last week, right after Duke Energy Carolinas made a surprise
announcement that it was not going to pursue a wind demonstration
project in Pamlico Sound, Apex Wind Energy Inc. of Charlottesville,
Va., announced that it had applied for 24 lease units in 216 square
miles off Morehead City to explore wind production.
The proposal, the first federal application for a wind farm in North
Carolina’s offshore waters, will be known as the “Outer Banks Ocean
Energy” project, or OBOE for short, said John Bane, professor and
director of graduate studies in the department of marine sciences at
the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Bane said that Apex purchased the Pinehurst, N.C.-based Outer Banks
Ocean Energy Corporation last month, but wants to retain the name for
the project, partly because everyone likes the acronym.
An advisor to Apex, Bane said that it was a coincidence that the Duke
and Apex announcements nearly coincided.
Before OBOE was sold, according to its website, the company had planned
to target a wind corridor off the tip of the Outer Banks, which was
expected to provide up to 3.8 megawatts of power generation per turbine.
By comparison, Duke’s now-axed project off Buxton would have generated
about 3 to 15 megawatts of power, depending on the type of turbine
Jason Walls, a Duke spokesman, said that the energy company decided
about a month ago to pull the plug on the Pamlico project after it saw
that it would cost about $116 million, more than three times the $35
million estimate provided by UNC, its partner in the project.
The demonstration project had planned to site three turbines in the
sound. When it was initially proposed last year, Duke said the project
could be learning tool in the development of larger offshore projects.
“What was really driving the overall decision here is that the cost of
the project exceeded the benefits to the consumer,” Walls said. “What
we know now is it’s not economically possible to do a small-scale
“For the project to be really economically viable, you need to be able
to spread the cost of the project over a larger number of turbines,” he
Duke had invested about 20,000 man-hours of work and about $3.6
million, Walls said, including costs for a soon-to-be completed study
of birds. The company has since agreed to pay an additional $400,000
for UNC to do a more comprehensive study of ocean wind resources off
For now, he said, Duke is not interested in development of commercial
wind facilities off the coast.
“That’s not our next step,” Walls said. “We don’t have any plans to do
that right now.”
But Duke is looking forward to seeing the results of the wind study
when it’s completed, and an offshore facility may be more feasible in
the future, Walls said. There is also the potential of Duke just
purchasing power from Apex or other wind energy developers.
In general, North Carolina has excellent wind resources, Bane said. The
earlier UNC wind study used in the Pamlico project showed that winds
off Hatteras were at the top range for power.
Apex is targeting the offshore area between Cape Lookout and Cape Fear,
about 31 miles from Wrightsville Beach, Bane said, because it appears
to have few potential military, recreational, or environmental
conflicts, is reasonably close to shore, and has a good water depth,
about 100 feet.
The July 14 application to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy
Management, Regulation and Enforcement -- the replacement for the
controversial Minerals Management Service – is just a baby step in what
could be a many-year process, said Apex spokesman Karlis
“This is very, very speculative,” he said.
Apex is proposing to install between 120-150 turbines, each generating
about 3.6 megawatts of power. Power would be transmitted to an offshore
platform, where an undersea cable would then transmit the power to an
Doug Huggett, major permits coordinator for the state Division of
Coastal Management, said that the state has already implemented new
rules to address the location of the transmission lines and the
environmental impacts of wind power generation.
Huggett said that the state supports development of wind power off the
coast, but there’s a big learning curve.
“I get a lot of calls from people who have questions about wind
energy,” he said. “It is a very hot topic right now. We’re learning as
we go along, too”
Povisils said that Apex is hoping that North Carolina continues to
encourage more companies to develop wind power off its coast, which
would encourage more equipment manufacturers to come to the state --
which translates to jobs.
“They need to see that there’s a market here,” he said.
project makes a potential sales opportunity for the manufacturer.”
Kozak, a former reporter for The Virginian-Pilot in the Nags Head
office, is now a freelance writer for The Island Free Press and other
August 19, 2010
Energy changes focus of Coastal Wind Demonstration Project
By IRENE NOLAN
Duke Energy Carolinas will no longer pursue a plan to place up to three
demonstration wind turbines in the Pamlico Sound.
Instead, the company and the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill will refocus their collaboration to study and help enable
large-scale offshore wind development on the oceanside of the North
Duke Energy announced the news today at a hastily called luncheon
meeting in Buxton that was followed by a media release.
According to the release, in-depth analysis and engineering have been
conducted since the project was announced in September, 2009. Duke
Energy concluded that the fixed costs associated with permitting,
design, and construction of the small-scale coastal wind demonstration
project were no longer economically viable.
“As the team tackled this first-of-its-kind project, we realized that
encouraging large-scale development of offshore wind resources is a
better approach than enabling small demonstration projects that lack
economies of scale,” said Paul Newton, senior vice president of
strategy for Duke Energy’s franchised businesses. “The cost of the
project simply exceeds the benefits our customers would receive if we
were to continue.”
“The community,” Newton added, “was not getting enough benefit to
justify the construction of the proposed wind turbines.”
The relatively high fixed cost of developing, permitting and installing
the first turbine makes a small demonstration project much less
cost-effective than a large-scale project. For example, the Duke Energy
team determined the cost of the first turbine to be $88 million, while
the second turbine would cost $14 million.
Additional challenges included the need to use modified shallow water
construction techniques and a greater than expected potential of
disturbing underwater vegetation.
“The work completed on this project was successful in showing that
North Carolina is well positioned to develop offshore wind generation,
and we encourage state lawmakers to consider legislation to enable
affordable large-scale wind generation off the coast,” Newton added.
“If we want North Carolina to become a leader in wind energy, we must
go where the wind is and that’s offshore,” said Sen. Marc Basnight,
president pro tempore of the state senate who represents Dare
County. “As a state government, we support this effort, but
understand that if the private sector is bearing the costs of
developing wind energy, it must be economically feasible.”
“I am pleased that Duke Energy is retooling their focus and moving
forward with additional study of offshore wind as a commercial power
source of the future,” Basnight added.
Duke Energy will fund the completion of UNC-Chapel Hill’s yearlong
study of bird populations begun through the coastal wind demonstration
In addition, Duke Energy will provide $405,000 for the university’s
coastal wind oceanside study, which began with a review of available
historical data as part of a feasibility study requested by the North
Carolina General Assembly.
“These research efforts will bring North Carolina a step closer to
making large-scale wind power generation a reality off its coast,” Duke
Energy said in the media release.
“My colleagues and I are grateful to be able to continue important
research that will advance our knowledge of birds along the coast and
refine offshore wind resource assessments, where we agree there is
great potential for wind energy development,” said Dr. Harvey Seim,
professor of marine sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill. “Duke Energy’s
commitment to the ocean-side studies, together with funding from other
partners, will enable us to identify and assess the areas with the
highest potential for successful wind power generation.”
Donna L. Robichand, the project manager, indicated that the ocean-based
project is currently envisioned for 8 to 12 miles offshore, probably
south and east of Hatteras Inlet.
In September 2009, the university and Duke Energy Carolinas signed a
contract to place up to three demonstration wind turbines in the
Pamlico Sound. The purpose of the pilot project was to study the
potential for coastal wind generation off the coast of North Carolina.
The project was announced with much fanfare at a public meeting at Cape
Hatteras Secondary School in Buxton. The featured speaker was
Gov. Beverly Perdue, along with Duke Energy and UNC officials.
Under that contract, the company would pay for the turbines and their
installation, while UNC-Chapel Hill would conduct research on wind
resources, ecological impacts and synergies, and initiate engineering
studies of structural integrity during hurricanes.
The turbines would have been among the first placed in waters off the
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Hranicka, Island Free Press columnist, also contributed to this