Cooper urges speed as wind energy panel holds first meeting

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, February 3, 2022

Associated Press

WILMINGTON — A state government-led panel dedicated to boost North Carolina’s economic environment for wind power projects must work swiftly to help the state reap industry benefits, Gov. Roy Cooper said on Thursday while attending the group’s first meeting.

Cooper issued an executive order last June that created the N.C. Taskforce for Offshore Wind Economic Resource Strategies, while also setting electricity production goals through offshore wind turbines for the next two decades. His goal for 2040 would generate the equivalent of powering roughly 2.3 million homes.

The 30-member task force, housed in the Department of Commerce, is commissioned to advance such projects and recommend policies that promote offshore wind jobs, develop industry logistics and support equitable access of opportunities for “underserved communities.” The panel, which is directed to report to state leaders annually, includes many members of the education, environmental, travel and tourism and marine industry sectors.

The panel on Thursday planned to review an outside consultant’s report  on wind energy for the department released last March. The report predicted North Carolina is well-positioned to attract business from the growing industry, which could generate an estimated $140 billion in total expenditures by 2035.

Beyond the need to address climate change, “the earlier we can get into this, the more we can reap the economic benefits from it,” the Democratic governor said while addressing the panel in Wilmington. “It is astounding the amount of clean energy that we can produce and the amount of money that can go in the pockets of North Carolinians.”

A renewable energy company has already proposed an offshore wind project off the northeastern North Carolina coast, roughly 25 miles  from Corolla, that Cooper said could produce electricity for 700,000 homes. The federal government also has started the process for leasing a nearly 200-square-mile  area east of Wilmington for wind power that could generate electricity for more than 500,000 homes.

Last month, Cooper issued an executive order setting more aggressive goals than he did in 2018 for greenhouse gas reductions and zero-emission vehicles.

A new greenhouse gas emissions inventory report from the state Department of Environmental Quality said the state is currently on pace by 2030 to produce 39% fewer emissions compared to 2005 levels. Cooper’s executive order last month set a 50% reduction goal by 2030.

The inventory report also found the transportation sector is now North Carolina’s leading cause of greenhouse gases, surpassing the energy sector, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported. The power-generating sector has seen emissions decline by nearly 35% from 2005 to 2018, according to the inventory.