Guide to Wind Energy in North Carolina

With volatile energy prices, concerns about increasing electricity demand and uncertain supply, and a greater awareness of environmental threats, energy issues in the United States are under greater scrutiny now than at any other time in our nation’s history.  As citizens and policy makers become more cognizant of these energy challenges, more attention is being paid to the increasing role of renewable sources of electricity.

In addition to national attention, there has been an increase in statewide consideration of renewable electricity generation in recent years.  In August 2007, the N.C. General Assembly acknowledged the benefits of renewable energy when it officially passed Senate Bill 3, creating a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS).  The North Carolina REPS requires state electric utilities to gradually increase the portion of their electricity that comes from renewable sources or energy efficiency measures.  By 2021, the investor-owned utilities operating in the state – Duke Energy Carolinas, Progress Energy Carolinas, and Dominion North Carolina Power – must derive at least 12.5 percent of the electricity they deliver from renewable sources or make equivalent consumption reductions through efficiency programs.  Smaller electricity providers such as municipal utilities and electric membership cooperatives must generate at least 10 percent of their electricity from similar sources by 2018.[1]

One such renewable source – wind power – is attracting particular attention due to its abundance and cost-competitiveness.   In fact, to examine the potential role of wind power in the future of the national electricity portfolio, the U.S. Department of Energy produced a detailed analysis of how the U.S. could derive 20 percent of its electricity from wind energy.[2]  The report, produced in July 2008, highlights North Carolina as possessing significant wind resource potential, estimating the state could install 12,000 MW of onshore and offshore wind energy capacity by the year 2030.  Based on 2010 estimates from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, North Carolina has an onshore wind resource of 1500 megawatts (MW) for sites with potential capacity factors of 30 percent or greater.[3]  North Carolina also has exceptional offshore wind resources – National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates show that N.C.’s offshore wind potential is higher than any other East Coast state.[4]

 

 



[1] North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association.  A Citizen’s Guide: The North Carolina Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard.  June 2012.  http://energync.org/assets/files/podcast_episodes/a-citizens-guide-to-the-nc-reps/a-citizens-guide-north-carolina-renewable-energy-energy-efficiency-portfolio-standard.pdf

[2] U.S. Department of Energy. 20% Wind Energy by 2030. July 2008.  http://www1.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/wind_2030.html

[3] National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Estimates of Windy Land Area and Wind Energy Potential by State. February 2010. http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/pdfs/wind_maps/wind_potential.pdf

[4] National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Assessment of offshore wind energy resources for the United States.  June 2010. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy10osti/45889.pdf