Northeastern North Carolina’s economy is poised to benefit from development of wind farms off the coasts of North Carolina and Virginia that will be producing energy by 2024.
That’s according to the chief deputy of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, who spoke to the Elizabeth City Rotary Club on Monday.
Jennifer Palestrant told club members that two wind farms — one off the coast of Virginia Beach and the second off the coast of Kitty Hawk — could create thousands of jobs in the region.
Dominion Energy is building the Virginia Beach wind farm in three stages, with the first stage scheduled to generate power in 2024. When completed in 2026, the project will produce enough clean energy to power 650,000 homes during peak wind.
Avangrid, which built the Amazon Wind Farm U.S East in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, is building the Kitty Hawk wind farm that could be producing some power in 2025. Its plans call for the project to be fully operational in 2027.
“It is coming fast and furious,” Palestrant said.
Palestrant, who was president of the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce from 2007 to 2012, noted that 40 percent of the region’s residents already work in the Hampton Roads area and that the two wind farm projects will have a huge impact on the region. Companies that will service the wind turbines once they are operational could also locate in northeastern North Carolina.
“There are 6,000 moving parts in a turbine and you can’t tell me that we can’t get some of that here,” said Palestrant, whose husband, Christopher, is a professor at Elizabeth City State University. “This is not just a Hampton Roads thing. It is not just a Virginia thing. This is at least a Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina thing. It is going to take at least three states’ worth of effort to build this.”
Palestrant said she thinks the region “will benefit very well” from the offshore wind energy project.
“I have a lot invested in this community and I want to make sure that northeastern North Carolina gets a piece of this success,’’ she said.
The Virginia Beach wind farm will feature 220 turbines located on 113,000 acres 26 miles from the coast. The Kitty Hawk project will feature more than 200 turbines on 122,000 acres 24 miles offshore.
“You will not be able to see them sitting on the beach in Kitty Hawk,” Palestrant said.
The offshore wind turbines are twice the size of the wind turbines at the Amazon Wind Farm. The offshore wind turbines are around 450 feet tall and each of the blades is 100 yards in length, which means they have to be manufactured close to the dock before they are towed out to the wind farm.
“These things are enormous, on a scale that would stagger the imagination,” Palestrant said. “They are also incredibly heavy. You have 500 turbines (that have to be built) and that is a lot of steel and a lot of fiberglass.”
Offshore wind energy is a relative new industry in the United States. Currently Rhode Island has the only offshore wind farm in the country.
The shallow offshore waters of North Carolina and Virginia and the Port of Virginia with its easy access to the Atlantic Ocean and no bridge impediments make the region perfectly suited to claim a big chunk of the billions of dollars that will be spent building East Coast wind farms, Palestrant said.
“We get ocean-level wind but at depths that are 30 feet,” she said. “Unlike New England or Maryland, you can float these things out. There are no overhead air-draft restrictions, there are no bridges. The Port of Virginia is also about to go to 55 feet which is nice for all these ships and the weight.”