By Jennifer Banks
The Southeastern states from Virginia to Florida are home to over 65 wind-related manufacturing facilities that support thousands of wind energy jobs in the region. The number of these supply chain facilities could expand significantly as land-based and offshore wind developments begin in the region. Besides having a highly skilled manufacturing base, the Southeast has several other competitive advantages, including the lowest estimated construction cost for offshore wind projects on the East Coast, according to the Energy Information Administration. The region is also home to nearly half of the offshore wind resource and five of the six largest electricity markets on the East Coast.
Here are just some of the recent activities and announcements that highlight the wind industry’s momentum in the region—and underscore the importance of an upcoming wind energy event:
Advancing technology that suits the region. The Department of Energy's 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report released this month found that the turbines installed in 2012 have an increased average hub height and rotor diameter compared with years past. These advances in land-based turbine technology benefit development in lower wind speed areas like the Southeast region.
Policies to improve permitting process. A North Carolina wind permitting bill, signed into law this May, provides guidelines for developers to obtain a permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for wind farms in the state and stipulates a schedule for public meetings surrounding projects.
More wind purchases, greater familiarity with the resource. Georgia Power announced this April that it will purchase 250 MW of wind energy from EDP Renewables wind farms in Oklahoma starting in January 2016. The electricity provided will be enough to power over 50,000 homes in Georgia Power’s service territory.
Big job potential in SC offshore wind. A South Carolina Supply Chain Survey and Offshore Wind Economic Impact Study released in 2012 estimates an annual average of 3,329 jobs per year with the installation of 1,000 MW off the coast of South Carolina.
And still bigger job potential for the whole region. A Department of Energy fact sheet released in July, Potential Economic Impacts from Offshore Wind in the Southeast Region, applied the new offshore wind Jobs and Economic Development Impacts (JEDI) model to Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The results showed that a “moderate” development scenario would lead to over 20,000 construction jobs and 6,700 permanent jobs in the Southeast by 2030.
Industry, policy makers and the public can learn more about wind energy potential and activities in the region during the Southeastern Coastal Wind Conference September 11-12. The conference, to be held in North Charleston, S.C., will feature session tracks covering land-based wind, offshore wind and the supply chain. General Sessions will highlight utility involvement in the region and offshore wind strategies from Europe. In addition to educational sessions, attendees will have a chance to view simulations from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) offshore North Carolina visual simulation study and tour Clemson University’s new Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility in North Charleston.
“The conference is a great example of the regional approach that the Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition is promoting.” said Brian O’Hara, President of the Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition. “By leveraging the strengths of each state, the Southeast is poised to be a major player in the wind energy industry.”
Over 20 organizing partners are engaged in the planning of the conference, including AWEA. "We look forward to coordinating our efforts on behalf of this promising technology," said Jeff Anthony, Senior Director of Membership and Business Development at AWEA.
To view the complete agenda and register for the event, please visit www.secoastalwind.org/conference.
Jennifer Banks is Director of Operations at the Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition