Many distinct resource quality advantages for offshore wind generation are present in the Southeast. For example, the proximity of the warm water Gulf Stream to the coast, especially off of North Carolina, creates a highly energetic microclimate with higher wind speeds. Additionally, the continental shelf in the Southeast is gently sloped, therefore it is possible to get further offshore and still stay in “shallow” water when compared to regions to the north, which significantly improves the resource quality at a given water depth. According to the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia have 82% of the East Coast resource in shallow water and more than 12 miles offshore and 45% of the total East Coast offshore wind resource.
The most important metric in gauging the viability of any power plant is ultimately the cost of the energy produced, and the Southeast has numerous strengths that will result in lower offshore wind energy costs compared to projects in regions to the north. Namely, construction costs in the Southeast are dramatically less than most of the country which directly impact the cost of power.
First Projects in the Region
CREDIT: DEEPWATER WIND/ØRSTED
Dominion Energy & Ørsted have partnered on the 12 MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) demonstration project. To be located 27-nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, CVOW was granted approval by Virginia's SCC in late 2018 and will be the first turbines in the U.S. to be located in federal waters. This project will provide critical operational, weather and environmental experience needed for large-scale development in the adjacent 112,800-acre site leased by Dominion Energy from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). Full deployment could generate up to 2,000 MW of energy – enough to power half a million homes. It is anticipated that the demonstration project will be in operation by 2020.
In 2017, BOEM held a lease auction for the 122,405-acre Wind Energy Area (WEA) 24-nautical miles off the coast of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, which was awarded to Avangrid Renewables, the owner and operator of the state's first land-based wind farm. The lease area has the potential to generate 2,500 MW and could begin construction as early as 2024.