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Over 122,000 acres released for offshore wind farm in N.C.

The first offshore wind farm in North Carolina has been proposed for Kitty Hawk, N.C.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recently announced the release of over 122,000 acres off the coast of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to be leased for wind energy development.

The proposed wind energy facility will be the first offshore wind farm to be built in North Carolina.

The federal government looked to Kitty Hawk when initiating offshore wind farms due to North Carolina having the best offshore wind resource out of any Atlantic state, said Melissa Dickerson, coastal coordinator of the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club.

“This is a pivotal turning point in offshore wind energy development,” she said.

Dickerson said there are three areas in North Carolina with enough energy for a wind farm: Kitty Hawk, where the offshore farm is being proposed, and two areas in Wilmington, which are in earlier stages of development due to environmental concerns.

Despite the possibility of property devaluation due to wind turbines off the coast of the Outer Banks, Gary Perry, mayor of Kitty Hawk, said they do not expect the proposed wind farm to affect tourism.

“The farm that is being proposed would be about 24 miles offshore,” he said. “Even though they are large structures, it’s just too far away to really impact our tourism.”

Wind farms have proven a controversial topic for the Outer Banks — a 2016 study showed tourists were unlikely to return to rental homes if wind turbines were visible from the shore.

Perry said their initial worries about wind turbines affecting tourism were taken into consideration when making plans for the proposed farm.

“They chose not to put this farm six miles off the beach, which would have affected us,” he said. “But that was also in the interest of the Navy and all other marine traffic that is constantly passing through.”

The project will likely have positive effects on local job markets in coastal North Carolina, Dickerson said.

“It will be great in terms of job creation during construction and even full-time jobs after construction,” she said. “The economic benefits are a really positive impact for us to keep our eyes on.”

In 2010, Gov. Bev Purdue requested the formation of an intergovernmental task force to identify any potential environmental concerns and narrow in on the best sites for wind energy development, said James Bennett, chief of the Office of Renewable Energy Programs at BOEM.

“This process that we’re involved in is intended to be a very open and transparent public forum,” he said.

While the project is steadily moving forward, Dickerson said that securing the lease is an important next step in a long process of getting wind farms up and running.

“This is still years away, although we are excited that the project has gotten to this point,” she said.

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