North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Machelle Baker Sanders announced Wednesday that the state has entered into an international agreement with Denmark to advance its offshore wind energy production.
Baker Sanders and Director General Kristoffer Bottzauw of the Danish Energy Agency signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two agencies. The agreement will be known as the Cooperation on Offshore Wind Energy and Related Sectors agreement and will allow the state to access new resources and expertise from the nation that built the world’s first offshore wind farm.
Denmark established the Vindeby Offshore Wind Farm in 1991.
Nearly half of the electricity produced in Denmark comes from wind turbines, both on and offshore.
“The knowledge, data, and best practices accumulated by the Danish Energy Agency’s more than 30 years of offshore wind energy experience provides countless benefits to our state as we open opportunities with this growing industry,” said Sanders. “As we work to responsibly develop North Carolina’s offshore wind industry, I value the expertise and new resources this partnership brings to my department and the people of North Carolina.”
Böttzauw said, “We are very much looking forward to sharing our experiences with North Carolina on building the workforce, supply chain, and infrastructure needed to support offshore wind.”
Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order in June 2021 with offshore wind development goals of 2.8 gigawatts off the North Carolina coast by 2030 and 8.0 GW by 2040. Cooper said those measurements will power roughly 2.3 million homes by 2040. In addition, Cooper said it will help achieve the North Carolina Clean Energy Plan goal of a 70% reduction in power sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.
The General Assembly passed H.B. 951 in October 2021 with the same goals. It was signed into law by Cooper that same month.
There are two offshore wind projects proposed off the N.C. coast. Construction on Kitty Hawk Offshore, a project by Avangrid Renewables off the Outer Banks, is expected to start in 2024, with a goal of powering up to 700,000 homes in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina.
The second project is Wilmington East, a combined effort between Duke Energy and French Total Energies Renewables that could provide enough electricity for more than 500,000 homes.
Despite the promises of a cleaner energy future that will create numerous jobs and power millions of homes, critics say there is more to consider when it comes to the issue of wind power.
“Gov. Cooper’s announcement shows he is more focused on satisfying the renewable energy lobbies funding his political career than on ensuring that the people of this state have reliable, low-cost electricity at the flip of a switch,” said Jon Sanders, director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life and research editor at the John Locke Foundation. “Research shows that offshore wind energy development is enormously expensive, would cost the state thousands upon thousands of jobs, would spike electricity prices and energy poverty here, and it would be especially harmful to coastal areas’ two major industries of fishing and tourism. It threatens dozens of endangered marine species, including North Atlantic Right Whales and Loggerhead Turtles. All of this would be for an electricity source that is entirely dependent upon nature and cannot be relied upon for baseline production.”
Sanders also points out that while Denmark may have the experience and knowledge in building offshore wind farms, they probably don’t have the knowledge to build in hurricane-prone waters.
“North Carolina’s coast rivals Florida’s with the frequency of hurricanes and major hurricanes,” he said. “These storms would be plowing into wind energy areas over three times the area of the City of Wilmington and sporting turbines taller than the tallest buildings in the state.”
Even though Denmark promotes the fact that half of its energy comes from wind turbines, the country has also seen its share of issues with that type of electricity generation.
According to an October article from renewablesnow.com, Denmark has lost $2.1 billion (the equivalent of over $300 million in U.S. dollars) due to underperforming and curtailed wind turbines.
The article cites IntelStor, a renewable energy market research and consulting firm, which found that from 1978 through 2020, Denmark has seen a total loss of 7.85 TWh of wind energy production through a combination of curtailments, faults, and failures as well as age-related asset performance degradation.
Danish authorities were also preparing for a possible energy crisis in September amid a five-fold increase in electricity and gas prices in August. In October, Danish authorities ordered energy company Ørsted to resume operations at its oil and coal-fired power stations to ensure the supply of electricity in Denmark.
“The only encouraging news in this MOU is the line that acknowledges it ‘is not a legally binding document’,” Sanders said.
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