An innovative, new and growing industry sector is set to impact North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia in the coming years presenting increased opportunities for new manufacturing establishments, new careers and employment growth and diversification of the economic base with increased scientific and energy activities. The global market for offshore wind has been growing 24% annually since 2013 and is projected to grow 20% a year for the next 20 years. Economic developers should learn about the coming impacts of offshore wind energy generation to capitalize on this sector’s coming growth for their communities and across the southeast region.
New offshore wind generation areas have been authorized off the coast of Kitty Hawk, NC and Virginia Beach, VA, although construction is still years away. This week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will auction two new wind areas off the coast of Brunswick County, NC, near the border with South Carolina. While these generation areas are in the planning and permitting stages it is wise to look for leverage in your local community to take advantage of a sector with strong growth prospects.
Perhaps most widely interesting to economic development is the supply chain that must be built out for this sector. This includes the manufacturing, distribution and maintenance of the wind turbines and supporting structures as well as engineering, administrative and management related to the generation. To understand the potential and gaps in this supply chain, North Carolina has completed a “roadmap” for “Building North Carolina’s Offshore Wind Supply Chain” Opportunities will be spread across the southeast, with specific ones at port-adjacent areas. In Virginia, the Portsmouth Marine Terminal is underdevelopment to host Siemens’ $200m manufacturing site as well as Dominion Energy’s staging and assembly operations. Both North Carolina and Virginia have established Offshore Wind Supplier Registries to support growth and development in this sector. The Southeastern Wind Coalition has aggregated registries from 11 states to better visualize potential connections and gaps.
With sector growth at 20%, it makes sense to align and expand workforce training rpograms to support the pipeline of employees needed. Estimates put production technicians at 31% of the total and community colleges and technical schools are already planning for new certifications and curricula here. Maintenance, Installation and Repair occupations will account for another 20% of jobs, and these will also benefit from new and revised training programs. However, the other 49% of jobs are spread over scientific, engineering, administrative and sales positions that may not need such technical training when the growth in this sector takes off in next few years. For North Carolina, an additional benefit is the location in eastern and coastal North Carolina where manufacturing could advance its employment, infrastructure and supply chain profile.
Current and Future Wind Energy Areas
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will hold an auction May 11 for the Wilmington East area off the coast of Brunswick County. This will add a second wind energy area to North Carolina, with the Kitty Hawk Wind Project in the pre-construction analysis phase. Off the coast of Hampton Roads, Virginia, there is already a pilot project and the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project is expected to be generating power by 2026. With significant lead time for permitting, planning and construction in advance of operations, BOEM last month issued a Call for Information and Nominations regarding offshore wind development in the central Atlantic region. The potential development of these areas ensures that investments in offshore wind sector strategies and infrastructure will support economic growth and clean energy far into the future.